The Direction of the Wind by Mansi Shah

This is a story about finding yourself. Sophie, a Gujarati woman in her late 20s, has just lost her beloved Papa. Since she was 6 it has just been the two of them and he devoted his life to ensuring that his daughter had the skills to be independent – which maybe was not the true Gujarati way. In her aunts’ eyes, she should already have been married, but looking after her father was a valid reason for not being. But now Sophie is on her own, it is important to arrange a marriage as soon as possible. Sophie had been told that her mother died, but when she starts sorting through her father’s belongings she finds letters from her mother, Nita. Letters that prove that she never died, she left them to go to Paris. With a marriage arranged, Sophie knows that she needs to find her mother and ask the question – why?

The stories are told in two timelines – Nita’s when she goes to Paris to become an artist, and Sophie’s when she goes to Paris to find Nita. Some of the things that happened to both women, I did feel were contrived sometimes and, with regard to Sophie, maybe sometimes, things fell into place just a little too easily. But, it was a satisfying read and I enjoyed watched how both women navigated a life that was very different to the privileged life that they had enjoyed in India.

Hani & Ishu’s Guide to Fake Dating by Adiba Jaigirdar

I picked this up because it is the winner of the YA Book Prize 2o22. This is a book that is – as it says in the title – about fake dating. The two main characters in this novel are Hani and Ishu, two Bengali students in an Irish school which immediately adds another layer. As the two ‘brown’ girls in the school, they are expected to be friends, but they aren’t. Ishu is studious, the A grade student, who does not have friends and doesn’t seem to really mind. Hani is open and friendly and willing to be whatever her friends want her to be. They come together when Hani’s friends refuse to accept her bisexuality and Ishu wants to be Head Girl. They realise that by fake dating, they can help each other and we all know what happens with that trope.

However, there is more to it than this trope. We have the family relationships – how Ishu’s parents have such high expectations for her while Hani’s parents are supportive and loving. We also have toxic friendships and racism and islamophobia. Hani’s friends make no attempt to understand her culture and her religion, they just expect her to follow them. The character arcs of the two girls are well developed and their romance is quite sweet.

Even though I am not the target audience for this book, it was an enjoyable read and was about more than just fake dating.