Cover Image: American Betiya

American Betiya

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Member Reviews

Rani is an Indian-American teenager with a passion for photography, dreams of becoming a doctor, and a whirlwind of a relationship with Oliver, painter and resident bad-boy for whom she falls head-over-heels in love. She meets Oliver at a local art exhibit one day and their subsequent chemistry burns and singes themselves and those around them while they figure out who they are. This novel explores some of the complexities of interracial relationships and the pains of growing up with brutal honesty and careful nuance and is honestly the book I wish I could have read as a teenager.

I don’t quite know what I expected before I read this but I was prepared to feel bored by some of the worn tropes and stereotypes about India, South-Asian families, Indian-American girls, and teenage relationships in particular. though they are present, I was also surprised to find myself through a rollercoaster of emotion as the book took very different turns through all of it. The emotional intensity of unhealthy love, the push and pull of navigating two identities while also trying to grow up, balancing family and friendships, navigating racism and cultural differences, and using artistic expression as a means for self-discovery and communication were all aspects of the novel I found very compelling.

It made me so happy that this kind of incredible representation exists for South-Asian American teenagers now because it made me feel seen in a way I didn’t anticipate. Overall, this was a really enjoyable read and one that I was glad to have experienced. If you’re looking for books with more South-Asian representation, I definitely recommend you pick this one up and give it a shot!
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Thank you to Netgalley and the publishers for an ARC. I devoured this book. The story of Rani growing up American Indian was a perspective I myself have not read in YA contemporary, so it was really interesting and beautiful learning about growing up in that kind of life. The characters were really well written and the banter between them was fantastic. I very much enjoyed learning more about Indian culture; it's beautiful.

The story about Rani wanting to remain true to her parents, her culture, and herself was inspiring and you were rooting for through the whole book. I was constantly intrigued on what was going to happen next as this story focuses around her dating a white, tattooed, art boy (Oliver); someone who her parents would NOT approve. As the story unravels we see where their relationship goes and at the same time, learn about microagressions the BIPOC community face everyday. The story starts immediately with Rani meeting Oliver so there's no dilly dallying in the beginning which I appreciate. I will definitely be picking up a hard copy of this book to have in my collection!
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A brilliant debut that explores young love and a journey of self-discovery. American Betiya explores culture, racism, microaggressions, privilege, toxic masculinity, and more through a cohesive and captivating narrative. An excellent contemporary YA that is filled with interesting characters and will surely resonate with many.
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3.75/5 ⭐️ to American Betiya by Anuradha D. Rajurkar. Thank you so much to Penguin Teen Canada & Knopf Teen for an egalley to review!

I did quite enjoy this one, but unfortunately didn’t love it as much as I had hoped. I still think this is an awesome book, and recommend it if you’re looking for a coming of age YA contemporary that celebrates south Asian culture, family, and the messiness of teen love. Just a heads up that it is a bit more hard-hitting than the synopsis may suggest, and is not as sunshine-y. I think this is why I had to lower my rating a little bit. I really loved Rani & her relationship with her family and friends. She is by no means perfect, but I find her to be quite real, likeable, and she learns a lot of important lessons in this book. She has some beautiful heart-to-hearts with her grandma, mother, and cousins which help her figure out her feelings about a boy she likes, and the pull she feels between her parents’s culture & expectations, and her own. There is some really important commentary in this story about cultural appropriation, and the writing translates the MC’s emotions about these situations beautifully as well as the seriousness & hurt racism can cause. Especially now, this is so important! As for the romance, it was super cute at the beginning, but it quickly grew toxic after some red flags. Rani was ultimately able to realize this and take some appropriate steps, but also had realistic emotions that come with a scenario like that. Not what I was hoping for or expecting at the beginning, but I think it was so important and well done, nevertheless. There is also a lot of talk around art, artistry, photography, and finding your voice as an artist. Admittedly this aspect of the book & these characters did go over my head a bit, but I could still very much appreciate and learn about this. I expect readers who are more involved in the arts would totally relate to these themes & conversations. Definitely check out this book, as it’s so worth it! It may be a bit raw and messy, but there is such beauty in it, too!
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As I'm now sitting, trying to sum up what I felt for this book, it feels nearly impossible because what justice will my words do to something that made me feel so many emotions at once? I'll still try my best to make this review as appealing as possible so that all of you read this book!😭

I'm a Marathi person, so this review might focus more on what I felt when I read this book, but I'll include all the other aspects too.

Never before in my life have I read fiction with Marathi representation. Starting the book and reading words like Baba, Aajoba, Aaji, Tai, they all made me feel so good. Representation really matters and I loved the accurate representation in American Betiya.

Not gonna lie, this book definitely seemed like a cringey “girl meets boy, they fall in love, family opposes and they still continue” romance. But, yes there's a "but" here, this is definitely not what happened.

Oliver and Rani meet, they fall in love. Even though Rani's parents want her to focus on her goals and not lose her focus because of love, that's what happens. Rani still goes ahead with it, and what happens next is so many things, all at the same time. She realises she's falling for Oliver, but he's not the same guy she met. He is too many things at once, and one of them is the guy who doesn't respect her culture.

People like me, people like Rani from the book, we are people who are very connected to our culture. We're taught that our culture is unique, and so we must respect it, cherish it. And that's what Rani did and I'm so proud of her for that.

There are many things I loved about the book, the representation, but also Rani and Kate's friendship, Rani's bond with her grandparents, her not being too close to her mother but eventually bonding with her, her cousins, and of course her courageous and kind heart.

The book is medium to fast paced and very easy to get into. There is also a part in the book which takes place in Pune, India and I absolutely loved it !! I would highl recommend this to people who want to see insights of Desi and Marathi culture.

There were a few things in the book I didn't agree with, like Mahatma Gandhi being called “great” I wouldn't try to make this controversial but I surely don't agree with that. And secondly Lilly Singh, who again isn't the "best" Indian rep out there. :)
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I don't really know where to start with this one. This was kind of hard to read, and I wanted to kick Oliver in the face almost from the first moment we met him. I still want to kick him in the face. He deserves all the kicks to his awful, racist, misogynistic face. 

This is a story that explores an all-consuming, manipulative, obsessive, extremely toxic relationship between an Indian American girl and a white American boy. Oliver spends their entire relationship fetishizing her and her culture. It's gross and problematic from the start, with him calling her "Princess Jasmine," telling her that "it's just meat" when she tries to explain why she's a vegetarian, wants to have sex with her while she's in traditional desi clothes for a wedding to act out his own fantasy of that, continuously blames her parents for EVERYTHING without EVER HAVING MET THEM, he calls her his "exotic Juliet," and he just... I mean, he piles microaggressions atop macroaggressions atop blatant racism and sexism and just... never recognizes what he's doing and saying as wrong.

And yes, I understand that was the point. I get that Oliver represents people who do these things and that their relationship was meant to be a portrayal of all the bad things. But I just spent so much of the book wanting to kick him in the face that I didn't spend any time enjoying much of anything. I liked Rani, and I liked how at the end of the day, she came to appreciate her family and culture, but I just wish we could have gotten more of that. 

I really liked Rani's relationship with Kate and how great they were, how they came back to each other. They were awesome and I loved how much Kate loved Rani's family, and how she defended them at the end when Rani was explaining all the things Oliver said about them. I loved Rani's relationship with her family members and how she learned more about them and embraced them more fully. 

Overall, this was a really good representation of a toxic romantic relationship, as well as of microaggressions and fetishization. Oliver was just such a good example of TRASH. Also, at the end, when he says he's seen as PROGRESSIVE and that he's a LEADER IN RACIAL AND FEMINIST ART?? Um, someone please kick him in the face and never let him anywhere near that stuff.

OH, I didn't even mention how he outed Rani to the world with his art piece at the end. This was awful. Freaking awful, and I love that Rani breaks up with him after this, but it just kills me that it took her this long to draw the final straw. I wanted her to kick him in the face over every little thing. He was just trash, and that is all I have to say about that. 

CW: racism, misogyny, microaggressions, fetishization, manipulative romantic partner, drug abuse, suicide ideation, gaslighting, death of a loved one
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Sadly, I didn't get to finish this book before it was archived, but I truly enjoyed this novel. I really liked all the characters (except Oliver), and I really enjoyed the Asian representation. It was so interesting to see how Rani was okay with people being discriminatory towards her because of her race, but she didn't care because of Oliver. And Oliver was nice in the beginning of the book, but we see his character develop into something more sinister towards the end. The plot was very strong and well executed. The themes blend beautifully with the characters, each one built with precision. The story is accessible to people of all nationalities, giving a bird's eye view of Desi families and their beliefs, and yet letting the readers understand the story (and cultural differences) at a steady pace. And the writing was alright. I appreciated how this novel explores culture and heritage. It brings up questions about how cultures clash, respecting others’ culture, and traditions vs a modern world. Its thought-provoking and it opens a large discussion about racism, ethnicity, and feeling conflicted about your upbringing.
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Before the many things I'd love to say about this book, I'd like to say something again which I felt throughout reading this book, I finally feel represented!

Yes. American Betiya is a book which speaks to me on almost every aspect that the book covers - what it means to be Indian on a foreign land, what it means to stand by your cultures and to simultaneously create traditions of your own, what it means to be an individual when you belong to a very close knit community and many more. Having lived in Chicago as a teen, many references made in the book was like nostalgia hitting hard which ofc is another reason why I loved this book.

As the title suggests American Betiya is about a young Indian American woman Rani Kelkar who aspires to become a paediatrician and is also an amazing photographer. At one of her high school events, Rani meets Oliver, over whom she's falling deep in love with.

But the book isn't a love story, at least not in the sense of love between two people. Rather it is a story of self discovery and learning to love oneself. It's about Rani's journey to understand who she is within her own community and to the world beyond that.

To read the entire review head to my blog, link in bio!

American Betiya is raw but at the same time it's not misleading. It captures the true essence of not only many Indian families but families from different cultures as well and what it means to live under the white gaze in America.

I'd love to share a beautiful moment I coincidently shared with my dad while reading this book. Usually he calls me 'beta' but one night he chose to call me 'betiya' which caught me off guard but definitely made me smile because in that moment I knew that the author had caught on to the feeling behind the word perfectly. ❤️

I would definitely recommend it to all Desi's and to anyone who is willing to not dump their micro-aggressions on this story.

I'd like to thank @hearourvoicestours for organizing this wonderful book tour and for having me be a part of it!
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Rani is an Indian-American teenager who has always obeyed her parents. She is eighteen and a senior in high school and has a passion for photography. Her parents want her to go to school for something more serious and Rani doesn't want to disappoint them. Then Rani meets Oliver, who is just the sort of guy that her parent's won't like. He's a white guy with lots of tattoos and an artist. Rani is drawn to Oliver because of his love of art and Oliver seems fascinated by Rani's Indian culture. Rani grapples with the new emotions of a first love and the complexities of a cross-cultural relationship, which she decides to keep a secret from her parents since they don't want her dating at all. This was a story that had just the right amount of angst and edginess. We are not dealing with the "perfect Indian daughter" here and Rani makes decisions that she fears would shock and disappoint her parents. Rani is a relatable protagonist trying to live a life that strikes a balance between being her own person and being a good daughter.

What to listen to while reading...
Oh! Sweet Nuthin' by The Velvet Underground
True Colors by Cyndi Lauper
Make Me Feel by Janelle Monae
Dreaming of You by Selena
Someone You Loved by Lewis Capaldi
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This was a great story that explored a young lady and struggles with her culture. This is definitely relatable, especially the scenes with her mother.
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When I read the synopsis, I laughed out loud because a guy with tattoos is every desi mom's biggest nightmare (at least in my home😂).
Rajurkar's 'American Betiya' is all about Rani, who falls in love with Oliver, entranced by his charming personality and anxious about lying to her parents. In this cross-cultural romance, family drama, identity crisis, and sense of loss of one's position in this nonsensical world play a major role.

Rajurkar's writing is easy and at times, tedious. More than the writing style, it's the plot that won me over. The themes blend beautifully with the characters, each one built with precision. The story is accessible to people of all nationalities, giving a bird's eye view of desi families and their beliefs, and yet letting the readers understand the story (and cultural differences) at a steady pace.
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This novel was so well done and difficult at times to read. I think the author did a wonderful job of bringing the reader along with Rani’s emotional journey and the way her relationship with herself, her identity, and others shifts and changes. I really liked Oliver at first and I was disappointed and betrayed by him in tandem with Rani. This book was so complex and I think it did a great job of talking about a lot of really nuanced and difficult topics like micro aggressions, relationships, and fetishization.
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American Betiya‘s main character is Rani, a teenager at a crossroads. She loves her culture and feels a deep tie to it but feels conflicted because her mother uses her background to keep a hold on her. Her upbringing has been school, scholarships, and no boys. While Rani knows her parents want the best for her she feels constrained because she feels as if she cant explore more of the world around her. When Rani meets Oliver an artsy kid she immediately falls hard for him. Though they come from two different backgrounds they share a deep connection. But will those same differences tear them apart?

This is also a coming of age narrative filled with rich culture and heritage. Rani’s interracial relationship brings up many discussions about cultural differences and socio-economic backgrounds. Rani is coming to grips with choosing a college, trying to get some space from her family, navigating high school. Meeting Oliver shakes things up exposes her to new ideas while he learns more about her culture.

Though everything seems sweet with Oliver at first things are not what they seem. I appreciated how this novel explores culture and heritage. It brings up questions about how cultures clash, respecting others’ culture, and traditions vs a modern world. Its thought-provoking and it opens a large discussion about racism, ethnicity, and feeling conflicted about your upbringing. While Rani has a loving and supportive family but also feels like they overstep boundaries. Which is something everyone has experienced being a teenager. It’s a story about crossroads, growing up, and the consequences of our actions which is summed in this conversation between Rani and her grandmother:

“The best masalas use spices slow-roasted over the flame,” she says, “browned, even a little burned. We are like that only— we burn a little to attain the complex flavor.”

This is a beautifully written YA contemporary debut and I enjoyed it thoroughly. American Betiya is a book that you should add to your TBR.

TW: Racism, Drugs/Alcohol
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I truly wanted to love this book — American Betiya centers around an Indian-American protagonist who has felt like she has to choose between two cultures, which is a feeling that I am all too familiar with. I loved the beginning of the book, when Rani has her art show and her vibrant family shows up to support her. I also loved how close she is with her family. I think this book touches on really important issues such as the fetishization of Indian women and connecting with your heritage. However, I found Rani hard to connect with — to me, it seems like she was written as a stereotypical high-achieving student who wants to go into medicine. I just couldn't finish this book and may pick it up again in the future.

Thanks to Netgalley and the publisher for the ARC!
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My thoughts:
I was really excited to read 'American Betiya' and I have to say it didn't disappoint me. I totally loved Rani, her character was well crafted and was multi dimensional. I was able to easily connect with her. I liked she was proud of her culture and didn't let anyone make her feel ashamed of it. The book deals with themes like: racism, ethnicity, culture differences, toxic relationships and drug addiction. 
Anuradha was also able to capture what it means to be a South Asian living in a western country really well. 
I did have some issues with the book. The pacing was the main problem- I felt it was very inconsistent and got somewhat repetitive towards the end and some scenes could have been easily deleted without affecting the book much. Also I didn't like that the author described Gandhi as "great" because he was known to be misogynist and racist. 
Overall, it was an enjoyable read. I think this book has one of the best South Asian representation. If you like books by Nisha Sharma, Sandhya Menon and Sophie Kinsella than I think you will certainly like this book.
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This was a very interesting, emotional story. 

AMERICAN BETIYA is full of raw feelings of growing up, new love and how to manage life when your partner doesn't understand where you're coming from. It is filled with beautiful prose about setting boundaries with parents who need to know everything.

I very much think this does to readers what I'LL GIVE YOU THE SUN did. I felt so captivated by the relationships, narrative, and the characters.
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This beautiful book captivated me and I enjoyed Rani's journey. Her secret white, tattooed boyfriend is not at all what Rani's Indian family has in mind for her. Although Rani's relationship with Oliver starts off fun and sex positive, it takes a turn to racism and some fetish-like, controlling behavior.. Rani's trip to India when her grandpa dies provides time, advice, and clarity to make decisions about what she wants for the rest of her life.
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American Betiya by Anuradha D. Rajurkar is an enlightening story about an Indian teenager secretly dating a white boy and trying to fit in. This is a great story of individuality and fitting in. Rani is a high schooler focused on her secret boyfriend which causes her to stray away from her family and friends. She is put in uncomfortable situations and has to figure out how to deal with them. When Oliver starts calling her an Indian princess and making questionable decisions Rani has to decide what she will do. Rani isn’t allowed to date and her parents would definitely not approve of her boyfriend. Rani grows up in a culture very different than mine, so I found it enlightening to hear her story. Family is important to Rani, so it is hard for her to go against her family’s wishes. I also found it very interesting that Rani’s best friend, Kate, is white and seeing how she fits in with Rani’s family. Kate’s reaction to everything going on with Oliver was interesting. Kate was a great friend to Rani throughout everything. Difficult issues like drug use are discussed in American Betiya. Rajurkar does an excellent job bringing the reader inside Rani’s perspective to think and feel like her. There were many situations that I was angry with while reading that I might not have even realized in person.  I recommend American Betiya for anyone interested in an entertaining novel about teens and Indian culture.

Thank you Books Forward, Random House Children’s/Knopf Books for Young Readers and NetGalley for American Betiya.
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Anuradha D. Rajurkar’s American Betiya is an ownvoices novel about Rani Kelkar, an Indian American teen who enjoys photography, volunteering to work with kids, and intends to pursue pre-med in her goals of becoming a pediatrician. Her world comes crashing down when she falls for Oliver Jensen, an artist with a troubled home life. When Rani becomes immersed in his dark past and even darker present, her world begins to fall apart at the seams as she struggles to maintain a grip on her own life and sense of reality.

[excerpt; full review included in link below]
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Synopsis: This novel follows Rani, an Indian American girl who has a passion of photography and dreams of being a doctor, and Oliver, a painter that she falls for and ends up dating. They meet at an art exhibit and immediately have so much chemistry. This novel follows the complexities interracial relationships with such honesty and force (tw: fetishing, microaggressions). This book is more than just a love story in my opinion, as we watch Rani grow as a character. I felt drawn to Rani's character, since there were so many similarities between us—her love for her family, her passion for art, her dreams of being in the health field, her strong voice. I really appreciated how Rani's family was characterized with intentional nuance, since I could tell this was written from a place of love. 

Reflection: I’m filing this one under “books that I desperately I needed when I was 14." This book is for the nourished my soul and healed the younger me. So much that I share a dedication to this book in a loose free write format. 

Dedication: The younger Krithi who struggled with experiencing her love for art and her dreams to be in health/ Who was told that being "too multifaceted" was overwhelming/ Who was told art is a hobby, but not a career/ Who couldn’t name micro aggressions from yt high school boys/ Who couldn't quite understand what was wrong about being told that your bushy eyebrows and hairy thighs were incredibly sexy because they were "so Indian" at the age of 16/ Who couldn't quite say no/ Who had crushes on yt boys really interested in your art only to mansplain art to you/ Who had crushes on yt boys only to make a mockery of your culture/ Who had crushes on yt boys only to pressure you into thinking your culture was wrong and evil/ Who struggled with functioning in PWIs/ Who loved her culture but hated the way people fetishized it/ Who fiercely loved her family but was tired of explaining to people why their truths and values were the way the way they/ Who couldn't quite balance two cultures/ Who trusted too many Olivers/ Who wanted to protect all the Ranis out there/ Who wanted to protect herself & wanted to be seen more than anything
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