Disclosure: This post contains affiliate links. If you make a purchase after clicking those links, I will receive a small commission from the sale at no extra cost to you.American Betiya by Anuradha D. Rajurkar
Published by Knopf Books for Young Readers on March 9, 2021
Genres: Young Adult Fiction, Contemporary
Format: eBook (368 pages)
Purchase: Amazon • IndieBound
Add Book: Goodreads • Bookhype
Fans of Sandhya Menon, Erika Sanchez and Jandy Nelson will identify with this story of a young artist grappling with first love, family boundaries and the complications of a cross-cultural relationship.
Rani Kelkar has never lied to her parents, until she meets Oliver. The same qualities that draw her in--his tattoos, his charisma, his passion for art--make him her mother's worst nightmare.
They begin dating in secret, but when Oliver's troubled home life unravels, he starts to ask more of Rani than she knows how to give, desperately trying to fit into her world, no matter how high the cost. Their relationship is nearly at the breaking point, when a family tragedy draws Rani to India for a summer. There, she gains perspective on what it means to be true to herself and what that means for her and Oliver.
Winner of SCBWI's Emerging Voices award, Anuradha Rajurkar takes an honest look at the ways cultures can clash in an interracial relationship. Rani's journey to hold onto her cultural identity amid the push-and-pull of first love, will resonate with anyone who's ever navigated a cross-cultural relationship.
I’m pretty sure American Betiya is the first book, YA or otherwise, that dealt with fetishization. Rani is eighteen and in love for the first time ever. She’s not allowed to date, so she keeps Oliver a secret from her traditional Indian parents. The sneaking around adds an element of excitement to their already intense relationship. However, it’s obvious early on that something is off about Oliver. He’s a nice guy. He respects Rani’s decision to not have sex right away. He asks questions about her culture. He centers her in his art. But…he also calls her Princess Jasmine and keeps pressing to come over and meet her family. But…Rani feels special and seen and loved!
I did read American Betiya nearly straight through because I was totally invested in this tumultuous relationship. Oliver’s behavior gets progressively weirder and more obsessive and just…gross, honestly. Eventually, all of this does catch up with Rani in a big way! Unfortunately, the last quarter or so read more like a brochure about racism rather than Rani’s real feelings. She confronts Oliver, talks to her best friend about it, and then has one last conversation with Oliver. All of which throw around every single buzzword possible and just didn’t feel authentic. I absolutely loved that the author tackled this subject, but it became too textbook by the end.