Cover Image: American Betiya

American Betiya

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Member Reviews

**Thank you to NetGalley and Random House Children's/Knopf Books for Young Readers for an eARC in exchange for an honest review. This in no way changed my opinions of the book**

I tried so hard to like this book. I wanted to like it. A friend who's opinion I respect quite a bit told me I would love it. 

I didn't. I've been trying for the better part of a year to finish this and have just lost interest every time I go back in to finish it. The main protagonist, Rani, is a photographer who falls for what feels like literally the first boy to look at her some type of way. We barely meet Oliver before she's falling all over him. And he's not anything special. He's suuuuuuper boring. They begin secretly dating because her parents don't want her to date. He also is very clueless about her ethnic background, which leads to some tension and some issues (even early on in the book). The exploration of interracial relationships and that cultural tension and identity should be themes I identify with as the biracial child of an interracial relationship who had figure out along the way where I fit into the cultures I was born into. But when the protagonist AND the love interest are both as interesting as watching paint dry, I can't. There are other books that explore these themes that are also engaging. I don't care enough about either of these characters to continue to force myself to finish their story for the book's sake, unfortunately.
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A romance that unequivocally focuses on the protagonist, a first generation Indian-American teenager who finds herself balancing on a line that separates her traditional values and modern virtues. With an upbringing that has always brought restrictions around boys and an undivided attention in school, Rani feels caught between her conventional family and the exciting world around her. When Oliver, a boy immensely passionate about art meets Rani, she immediately falls for him. But an artsy white guy with tattoos and piercings doesn't fit anywhere in her desi parents' book of expectations. So a secret interracial relationship commences and wonderfully shines light on the cultural differences and distinct backgrounds that often raise complexities in or deepen such connections. In addition to the emotional manoeuvre through heritage, identity, and self-discovery, this coming-of-age tale also stirs the ardent potion of a first and forbidden love.
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This book was heartwarming. The message was very powerful and one that is important for young brown girls to hear - we need to stand up for ourselves in this white supremacist society. I appreciated how important the main character's family was to her. In many South Asian-American narratives, the parents are the issue, but here Rani empathizes with her family and understands why they have the perspective they do, even as she carries opposing views from them.
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This book was super intense! When I say I was shouting at the main character, I really did! I had such a visceral response to it because I saw how quickly things were spiraling out of control. This book is really important though because it showed the importance of self-awareness, therapy and recognizing red flags before it's too late. Not every relationship is healthy and it's important to know when to leave.
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sadly, before i could download this title, netgalley took it off their catalog. that means i can’t review this one. HOWEVER, i will be checking in with my library to see if i can get a copy and review it that way
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American Betiya was such a rollercoaster of emotions! It absolutely shook me to my core. Going in, I was expecting a cutesy forbidden romance, but I was pleasantly surprised by the direction it took. While I am not an American-Indian, this book still made me feel so seen and understood. Just the fact that Indian high schoolers have books like these makes me want to cry happy tears.

First love and first relationships are messy and magical. You don’t know what you’re supposed to do, or how you’re supposed to feel, or how you’re supposed to express what you feel. Add cultural differences into the mix, and everything becomes even more complicated. I expected American Betiya to be like any other YA romance, but the way it handled the interracial relationship deserves all the praise in the world.

While this book is marketed as a romance, it has so much more. From Rani’s struggle with her identity, trying to please her parents, to the family issues swept under the rug and her adorable grandparents and the rest of the clan back in India, American Betiya weaves a beautiful and accurate representation of Indians and Indian-Americans.

When Rani’s secret boyfriend (and his mother) first start throwing mildly racist comments at her, I was fully expecting Rani to educate and change Oliver. Because happy endings are what you expect in a romance, right? Rani does get her happy ending, but not in the way you expect her to.

Lets talk about my favourite part of American Betiya – Rani’s family. There were so many moments where, if you just changed the names, it could be my own family. Rani learning about her mother’s youth and her parents’ romance from her aunt is such a beautiful moment and such a desi experience. Why do most desi parents not share stories from their pasts? They would rather be viewed as cold and distant than show eve a teensy bit of vulnerability. I do understand this at some level, but I also don’t. I was sobbing when Rani’s grandmother gives Rani Aajoba’s stuff and tells her stories of Rani’s childhood. That whole trip to India was immaculate. Shalini, Aajoba, Lalita Mami, every character was fabulous and their relationships with Rani were beautifully written. Also, Aajoba’s nickname for Rani is Chotu, which is so adorable!

American Betiya is exactly what the title says – the story of an Indian American daughter. This book has really touched my heart and I will still need some time to get over it. I have been pondering about my ratings for this book for days, but I still can’t decide. I can’t stop gushing over how good the representation is to analytically rate it.
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American Betiya is a coming of age YA Romance by Anuradha D. Rajurkar and also #ownvoices novel. 

I have so many emotions after reading this book mostly because I can relate to Rani on a much deeper level than just race and the colour of our skin. The urge to be happy while keeping your parents happy and living under their rules, regulations and expectations isn't easy! But I love how the book manages to balance expectations from her while she breaks those barriers to pave her own path, her decisions may have been right or wrong, but there are aspects of life that we cannot be shielded from in the modern age. 

Not going to lie, some events were cringey because of the way she was fetishized for her culture. My culture ain't your fetish! 🙃
But this is something that does happen IRL and the fact that the author managed to write about this plus so many other issues that do exist but no one talks about is commendable.  

Overall, I would highly recommend this book especially to all the Desi's out there!
🦄🦄🦄
Rated 9/10
Melina L.
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*SLIGHT SPOILERS?*

Originally, I was going to give this book a lower rating (or simply DNF-ing it) due to what I felt to be very uncomfortable moments and red flags between the main couple (mainly the fetishization of our Indian-American protagonist by their partner as well as a lot of gaslighting and disregard for their culture) that may give a younger audience the impression that this kind of behavior is healthy and acceptable. However, I wanted to give the book the benefit of the doubt considering that as an Indian-American woman the author does share intersectional identities with the protagonist. 

My problem with the book was that I was reading it wrong. This book isn't a romance, or not the healthy one I was expecting from the book where the couple overcomes all the obstacles and ends up happily ever after. When we're first introduced to the male love interest, we routing for them because they seem almost perfect like the underdog and we hope the wrongs we see them partake in will change (because how can it not for true love?). 

This isn't a love story, this is a cautionary tale and an excellent one at that. We see here that a toxic relationship isn't just physical abuse or partaking in substance abuse together, it's putting the other person in dangerous situations, the refusal to learn about and accept their culture without making it all about yourself, it's so many little things we might ignore so to not start an argument, This book is a must-read, especially for younger people who may not understand that obsession, the statement of love, domination, whatever you want to refer to it as is not love and can happen to anyone regardless of race or age.
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heartbreakingly gorgeous and a truly raw portrayal of the Indian American experience American Betiya is truly a novel that scoops Brown girls into its arms and tells us we are perfect just the way we are. This book had such an incredible analysis of the intricacies of interracial relationships specifically with a white person. It also features a main character not only struggling with how others perceive her but her own identity. It's a struggle not a lot of South Asian books discuss and it truly broke my heart in the best way possible when reading this. 

A truly powerful gorgeous novel, I highly recommend this to everyone
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4.5 stars

Words can't describe how much I loved this book. I don't think there has ever been a book that has made me feel more emotions than this book has. Rani was such an incredibly well written character who I could relate to so much. Some of her experiences have been things I have gone through. There were moments where I had to the book down because I felt myself on the pages. Rani's development from being closed off from her culture to embracing in front of her friends was refreshing to read about. Often in books, we see the main character feeling oppressed by their culture and hating it, but American Betiya, we see Rani learning to embrace her heritage by the end. 

The only reason I took off .5 stars is because of the mention of Gandhi and how it implies that he was a good person when he was not. 

However even that critique, I do still recommend this book! I would definitely check a list of triggers before reading because there are many things in this book that are hard to read.
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DNF - did not finish. I struggled to connect with the writing style and decided to put it down. Thank you, NetGalley and Publisher for the early copy.
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American Betiya examines how youth from immigrant families deal with straddling the line of traditional and Americanizing. The speed at which this story unfolds felt extremely slow for some reason. At certain parts, I was pleading for something to happen that would make the plot faster. This slow plot may have to do with Rajurkar wanting the reader to feel the intense anxiety that Rani is going through with family, friends, and secret boyfriend. The hidden relationship is the catalyst for all the book's events. The microaggression Oliver displayed gave a great look into abuse that is mental. Giving examples of how teens can second guess these abuses as not being harmful. Rani is flawed, insecure, and has typical teen stressors. This gave Rani depth and well-roundedness which will appeal to many readers.
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I figured out I was aro ace before I ever got into a relationship with someone, so romance and relationships are something I only experience vicariously through media. That’s just the way I like it. That means I’ve never experienced anything like the utter cluster at the center of American Betiya. WHOO, is Rani Kelkar in a mess.

Rani is your modern Indian girl with some serious photography skills. Oliver is a gifted artistv with a troubled home life. When they collide at an art show, the sparks are immediately and Rani is content to sneak around to be with him since her mother would never let her date period, let alone date a white boy. Oliver, though? He isn’t a fan of the boundaries she has on their relationship. He’s simultaneously resentful of her culture and sexually obsessed with it.

I’m not kidding about that part. He gives her a traditional Indian wedding set to wear and requests she put it on before they have sex. The fetishization is real, but Rani lets it slide at the time because she’s got her rose-colored glasses on. Plus his tempestuous moods make it hard for her to stay on solid ground in their relationship.

Even as you’re gaping at how Rani and Oliver treat one another, it’s all too easy to get swept up in their love affair, especially when it’s mostly okay in the beginning. As the novel goes on and Oliver’s behavior grows more erratic, the line between his obsession with her culture and the genuine, heartfelt experience of it within Rani’s home just highlights how unhealthy their relationship has become.

Where things weaken craftwise is toward the end of the novel. Rani’s dissection of what went wrong in her relationship with Oliver walks readers through every single red flag she missed and only sees now that they’re broken up and across the world from one another while she’s with her extended family in India. There’s no opportunity to think critically about their parts in how everything happened. We’re just boarded onto the Explain Train. It’s valuable for her to think through and understand it, but

American Betiya is a remarkable novel about first love, first relationships, and first heartbreak for a modern Indian girl from a traditional family. Were it not for the didactic turn the novel takes toward the end, I’d be rating it higher. Even so, I recommend you read it. Those who have never been in love will be able to live vicariously through Rani and maybe learn something from her.
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This is a great book that delves into many topics that with our current social climate are needed. Rajurkar gives you such a realistic view of not only high school romance but into Indian American Culture. Rajurkar also isn't afraid to get into some bold topics such as toxic love, fertishization of women and racism. The main Character, Rani, is a high school girl who has artistic dreams but also wants to live up to her family educational expectations. She then meets Oliver, a white boy who her parents would never approve of. 

Their relationship becomes a whirlwind of intense love, and rebellion. At first, you think this is a typical high school romance but soon you realize that Oliver's obsession with Ran is disturbing and he's not treating her like a human being but like some sort of exotic creature he can show off. You can't help but get emotional over the relationship, whether it's anger, frustration, or sadness. Rani is amazing (as is her relationship with Kate [her best friend] and her family) and we get to see her amazing transformation from shy teenager to young college woman. My favorite part of the book was the epilogue because you can really see Rani's growth and development.

Overall, an amazing YA book
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American Betiya by Anuradha D. Rajurkar
☆☆☆☆

I am so happy to have an Indian rep in a book. The main character Rani, who was shy and confused about her culture grows and owns it proudly at the end that's what I liked the most, I also liked the references and traditional things mentioned in the book like Basant Panchami Pooja, Devghar, Kaju Barfee.

The struggles of Indians, Asians or infact any cultures in general, who aren't white, who are immigrants, who face hate, fear, stereotyping, fetishism, and ridicule for not being white and are told to go back to wherever they came from, is vividly portrayed in the book.

The horrors that result from a person being xenophobic and racist, like the instant that happened at the spiritual life teachings center, or at Halloween, when Rani, the main character is ridiculed for wearing a Sari, she is called Gandhi Girl.

Princess Jasmine & Exotic Juliet are her nicknames to her dismay.

The friendship between Rani and Kate is exemplary. I also liked the characters of Salil, Henry, Aaji, Shalini, and
Veena.

The boy Rani is crushing on is a nightmare come true for her family as she says herself in the beginning. The theme of toxic relationships is discussed really well in the book.

I found Aajoba's and Rani's relationship descriptions really beautiful. The writing was slow at first but seamless in the second half which made me invested in the story.

Thank you so much @hearourvoicestours @anuradhadrajurkar for this wonderful opportunity and @netgalley for the arc
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Rani is an Indian-American in her last year of high school. While at an art gallery where she is displaying some photos, she meets Oliver. Oliver is a quintessential American "bad boy" and she knows her parents wouldn't approve.

Her parents traditional upbringing doesn't allow her to date. She becomes so enamored with Oliver that she sneaks behind her parent's backs to see him.

I wish Rani had learned to stand up for herself and her beliefs a little sooner than she had. Oliver starts out pretty sweet but slowly started letting out microaggresions against her culture and when he's called out on them, he doesn't think he's being racist.
This story also deals with some sexism. 

I'm glad that Rani was able to realize Oliver just wasn't the guy for her. 
I love her friend Kate and the loyalty her and Rani have.
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This book explores the societal tension of an interracial relationship. Rani and Oliver really intrigued me, and being in Rani's head while she navigated her family and her first relationship made for a great book. I also learned so much about Indian culture by reading this book!
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Falling in love with another can lead one to figuring out how to truly love and care for oneself. An important message for young women of color living in America today. The connections which exist between the protagonist Rani and her family and friends are complex, but authentic., which helps to anchor the story in a sense of striking realism throughout. I highly recommend this book as a compelling "own voices" YA read educators and librarians should adding to school libraries and reading list.
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Is it crazy that I want to scream every time I think about this book? It is possible I’m being a wee bit dramatic but American Betiya managed to do that thing where my heart painfully constricts at the thought of Rani and her tumultuous journey to achieving self-fulfillment and owning her identity. Ahh this book gives me all the bittersweet feelings!!!

To put it simply, this story centers around a relationship between Rani and her "bad boy" artist boyfriend Oliver that starts off good and brings interesting changes to Rani’s life but eventually turns into something ugly and damaging. Rajurkar interweaves the dynamics of this relationship — that changes course when Oliver’s family life starts to get difficult — beautifully with the exploration of Rani’s family, cultural values and religion and basically encapsulates the complexities involved in the Indian American/immigrant experience. It was done so so well, the second half of the book being my absolute favorite.

I want to say here that this book deals with some heavy topics like racism & micro-aggressions, gaslighting and fetishization of someone’s culture. There’s great commentary on the same toxic narrative of "good" children getting into bad things and their families stigmatizing them. The author writes these well and with purpose but ofc major trigger warning!

A part of the story is also set in India and I cannot tell you how much I adored this part of the book- so many tears were shed, interesting revelations were brought to light, and mostly I was overcome with a sense of nostalgia as it’s been over a year since I’ve gone back.

Rajurkar was able to write authentic characters that I could connect with in unique ways. The most unique connection of all being with the MC Rani. Her storyline was admittedly one of the most frustrating ones I’ve had the experience of reading. It was a mixture of wanting to shake some sense into her head and also wanting to give her a tight hug. I just adored her character.

I loved how she embraced her culture wholeheartedly and I found the semi-awkward relationship with her parents, especially her mom, SO relatable- it was actually hilarious. 

Kate was another favorite of mine. Her storyline jumped of the page with its own complexities and I honestly wouldn’t mind reading a book about her. I loved her role in Rani’s life and I think they had a great chemistry together.

And I have to shoutout Shalini, Rani’s cousin because I LOVE HER.
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This book put me through an all-rounded emotional journey and it’s no surprise I kept reading till 6 AM. I have found so much to love and appreciate about American Betiya and it’s easily one of my favorite books of the year. You’ll laugh, you’ll cry both sad and happy tears & you’ll constantly wonder about Rani and Oliver but it’s so worth it. Read American Betiya!!!

Trigger warnings: Emotional abuse, gaslighting, cultural fetishization, cultural appropriation, racism, micro aggressions, suicide, depression, substance abuse, anxiety, sex, death, loss of loved ones.
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4.5/5 Stars

I am not sure what I was expecting when I picked up American Betiya, but I am so grateful that I did. The novel follows Indian-American teenager Rani as she meets and dates (in secret) a white boy named Oliver.

The novel is very character-driven (my favorite!) and so to some might come across as slow. However, the character development is so strong. Rani is such an incredibly complex character, a girl who has to learn who she is and who she wants to be even when it feels like her relationship is all-consuming. I was groaning and shaking my fist at Rani as she made mistakes because I only wanted her to know how much she belongs to herself, and cheering for her when she stood up for herself.

Anuradha D. Rajurkar is an outstanding writer, and her powerful YA debut is one that every teenager (and adult) should read. American Betiya is a breathtaking and moving account of identity, family, first love, and racism.

CW: sex, ambiguous sexual consent (character consents, but does not appear comfortable), racism, fetishization of women of color

Thank you to NetGalley and Random House Children's for the advanced reader copy in exchange for an honest review!
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