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Karma and Other Stories [Paperback]

Rishi Reddi

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Book Description

July 7 2019

In this sparkling collection, award-winning writer Rishi Reddi weaves a multigenerational tapestry of interconnected lives, depicting members of an Indian American community struggling to balance the demands of tradition with the allure of Western life.

In "Lord Krishna," a teenager is offended when his evangelical history teacher likens the Hindu deity to Satan, but ultimately forgives the teacher against his father's wishes. In the title story, "Karma," an unemployed professor rescues birds in downtown Boston after his wealthy brother kicks him out of his home. In "Justice Shiva Ram Murthy," which appeared in The Best American Short Stories 2005, an irascible retired judge reconnects with a childhood friend while adjusting to a new life with his daughter and her American husband. In "Devadasi," a beautiful young woman raised in the United States travels back to India and challenges the sexual confines of her culture. And in "Bangles," a widow decides to return to her native village to flee her son's off-putting American ways.

Set mostly in the Boston area, with side trips to an isolated immigrant community in Wichita, Kansas, and the characters' hometown of Hyderabad, India, Karma and Other Stories introduces a luminous new voice.

--This text refers to an alternate Paperback edition.

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Product Details

  • Paperback: 224 pages
  • Publisher: HarperCollins Canada / Fiction (July 7 2019)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 006089878X
  • ISBN-13: 978-0060898786
  • Product Dimensions: 20.3 x 14 x 1.3 cm
  • Shipping Weight: 272 g
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: #3,141,194 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
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Product Description

From Publishers Weekly

Set primarily in Boston and its suburbs, Reddi's debut focuses on individuals and families struggling to reconcile their Indian diaspora backgrounds with American life, while attempting to preserve their small, at times contentious ethnic communities. Often generational differences are the root of conflict—in "Bangles," a successful American doctor tries to fulfill his duty by bringing his newly widowed mother from Hyderabad to his upscale suburban home, but fails to make space in his young family's life for her religious and cultural needs. In "The Validity of Love," a rebellious but fragile young woman must examine the extent to which she's internalized traditional ideas of Indian marriage when her best friend willingly enters into an arranged engagement. In other cases, the conflict is an economic one: in the title story, unemployed Shankar Balareddy, frustrated and angered by his younger brother's callous success, searches for redemption from a youthful misdeed. While her themes are familiar, Reddi deftly employs images to crystallize them: a set of red glass bracelets smashed with a rock, a wounded bird confused by Boston's skyscrapers, even a bean-and-cheese burrito, all call to mind the isolation and occasional bewilderment shared by her sympathetic characters. (Mar.)
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.

From Booklist

This excellent debut collection is deceptively easy to read. The stories of Indian Americans navigating their way through two cultures can be read in one or two sittings, but they deserve to be pored over slowly. Each story manages to include information about Indian culture, without seeming remotely pedantic or expository. The details make the stories specific to Indians, but the emotions and characters make the stories universal. A teenager tries to gain his father's protection, while also asserting himself. A devoted wife and mother struggles to find her own identity. A hip twentysomething copes with her best friend's upcoming marriage and her own failed relationship. A great recommendation not only for fans of Jhumpa Lahiri's The Namesake (2004) but also for fans of F. Scott Fitzgerald's elegant studies of a culture that is both familiar and foreign. Marta Segal Block
Copyright © American Library Association. All rights reserved

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Amazon.com: 4.5 out of 5 stars  15 reviews
5 of 6 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Well Crafted But Thematically Repetitive Sept. 14 2007
By A. Ross - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Paperback|Verified Purchase
Set mostly in suburban Boston, this debut collection of seven short stories revolves around familiar themes of cross-cultural integration. Reddi writes what she knows about, the struggle of Indians (specifically, the Telugu-speaking diaspora from Hyderabad) to reconcile their heritage and culture with life in the United States. These challenges, which are reflected quite differently among the three generations of characters, are all handled with delicacy, grace, and a certain calm tone. Unfortunately the stories trawl back and forth over the same thematic territory to such an extent that the book ends up feeling rather repetitive.

Certainly, Reddi adeptly captures a range of voices, from that of an indignant elderly ex-judge who can't accept the smallest slight, to a young teenage boy trying to fit into his white-bread Midwestern school, and all manner of husbands, wives, and aunties in between, including a fully assimilated 20something woman. This is accomplished without trotting out a kitchen sink's worth of cultural touchstones, which is a welcome change from so much writing of this kind (although food, traditional dance, and clothing all play small roles in setting various scenes, and contrary to several reviewers, arranged marriage does play a central role in one story, and is a key factor in a few others).

However, by the end, I didn't feel particularly enriched by the book. The immigrant experience is central to American literature, and I had a difficult time finding anything new or through-provoking in these stories. They're all well-written, and each has its moments of nice imagery or subtlety of tone, but there was nothing fresh to grab me -- rather, they felt like well-executed versions of a well-trod genre. Published individually in other publications (as, I believe they were, although there's nothing indicating this anywhere in the book), I can see the stories standing out more and having a greater impact, but side-by-side, they start to blur and blend.
2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Indians in the US Sept. 6 2009
By Jane Austen - Published on Amazon.com
Karma and Other Stories. Rishi Reddi's debut book with short stories. Rishi was born in the Indian city of Hyderabad and then moved to the US with her parents when she was young. Her first attempt to write a book has been commendable. She is comfortable writing about the Boston area, where she spent most of her life in the US. She talks about the Telugu speaking families settled in the US. And, to an extent she has been able to create the aura. I particularly liked the story 'Lord Krishna' - it was all about standing up for something that's wrong and also about trying to forgive.

Though most of the stories are well written, in easy English, and have a logical ending, there are one or two stories that end abruptly & whose ending leave much to the reader's imagination. And there is another story that was a bit confusing - was Rishi trying to tell a story about Devdasis or about Hindu/Muslim divide?
1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Karma and Other Stories -- an exceptional collection Oct. 30 2011
By Michelle Toth - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Paperback|Verified Purchase
Karma and Other Stories by Rishi Reddi is a beautiful book in every way -- starting with the cover and extending to the lovely prose. I recently purchased multiple copies for friends who I believe will enjoy these stories that so skillfully explore the Indian American experience.
2 of 3 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Wonderful stories about people Nov. 29 2007
By ww - Published on Amazon.com
I've been reading this book at night, before going to bed. That's about the right pace; it lets me reflect on each story. And the last three nights I've found myself saying "man this is a good book."

Each story is about people, with the same motivations and conflicts that most of us can identify with. The lenses we see those conflicts through are different, but it just helps to give a different perspective, and see how much alike people are deep down inside.

The need of an elder for respect; the conflict between duty and desire for a path; the interaction beween husband and wife who have grown a little distant and are trying to figure out what's wrong; the failure of people to fit into others' preconceived roles for them.

The fact that they're mostly set in Lexington, MA, in a particular Americanized ethnic community serves more to highlight the commonality than set apart the cultures.

I think the study of people is fun and interesting. If you do, too, then this is a really great book.
2 of 3 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Good quickie read with a bit of depth June 7 2007
By Sarah Davenport - Published on Amazon.com
If you are looking for a deep look into the lives of Indian-Americans, you won't find it here. Reddi's short stories are easy to read and move at a good pace. The characters have depth to them and you find yourself identifying with them and feeling for them as well. Some stories have a bit of a punch at the end that can leave you wondering about your own mistakes like "The Validity of Love" or laughing at someone that you know who is just like the character in "Justice Shiva Ram Murthy." She writes from the viewpoint of a crotchety old man as she does a teenager discovering the world of men.

Overall, it's a good collection. The stories and characters are easily identified and you begin to get a feeling of the Indian-American culture. I think my favorite stories were probably "Bangles" and "The Validity of Love" just because you saw the characters grow from beginning to end.

I didn't give the collection five stars because certain things do become repetitive and the stories lose momentum. But if you are a fan of short stories and/or cultural fiction, this is a good collection to read.

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