Book 1 of 2019, and what a fab start to my year of reading this was.
Of course, it was that stand-out title that first pulled me in. How could it not?
It’s unusual, isn’t it? No matter how worldly and open-minded you are, you probably haven’t heard the words ‘erotic stories’ and ‘Punjabi widows’ in the same sentence. Well, unless you’re talking about this book, of course.
The book follows a young British-Asian woman, who was born & raised in Southall, London by her Sikh family, who hold quite traditional values. But being a pint-pulling, cigarette-smoking, sex-before-marriage-having gal, Nikki doesn’t quite fit in with what her family and community believe a good Sikh woman should be like.
There’s a massive clash of culture, and Nikki struggles to find the balance between keeping both herself and her family happy.
The story follows Nikki as she unwittingly ends up being a teacher for a classroom full of Punjabi widows… who have some seriously erotic (and often hilarious!) stories to tell!
But the culture within this community means that these ladies being open about their sex lives is absolutely not acceptable, and they can’t be found out. If they are, the consequences could be dire.
There are a few different plots within the story, all intertwined to make Erotic Stories for Punjabi Widows a book which will make you want to keep turning the pages till the end.
The author of this book, Balli Kaur Jaswal, manages to blend so many thought-provoking topics together – love and sexuality, humour and tragedy, religion and culture, feminism and misogyny, family ties and societal pressures – to create a really powerful read.
It’s 2019 and things are changing, but there’s still this perception that women shouldn’t talk openly about sex. Men can sit around and discuss their sex lives & it’s just “lads being lads”. Women do so and it’s perceived as being crass.
Now multiply that perception by a LOT for Asian women, particularly those who are religious. I’m not Asian, so I can’t speak on their behalf, but I’ve had people tell me they’ve been surprised before when they’ve seen a woman in a hijab buying sexy lingerie from Ann Summers. Sometimes, I think people truly believe that Asian women get their babies via a stork.
Now if you add being widowed into the mix, it must start becoming unfathomable to some. It’s not just the perception people have that widows shouldn’t have sexual thoughts anymore, but also the misconception that all widows are elderly. Two things are wrong there – 1) widows can be in their 20’s! 2) those elderly widows have had sex too! Your grandparents were at it once upon a time, sorry to break it to you!
I’m not naive, by the way. I understand that it’s a work of fiction, and that not every Punjabi widow has had a super thrilling sex life (sadly)! I know that when you come from a culture or religion where women speaking openly about sex isn’t acceptable, it’s not as easy as just fighting against that. But this book is a reminder to women from all backgrounds, religions, races, that no one can take away your thoughts and memories, even if vocalising them is a no!
Erotic Stories for Punjabi Widows challenges all kinds of misconceptions and stereotypes, and really makes you think, even months after putting the book down.
A thought-provoking, humorous read, not for the prudish! It made me laugh, almost cry, and challenged my perceptions of the little old Asian ladies I see out and about!
I’d definitely recommend, so if you like the sound of it, get yourself a copy here!
Let me know what you think in the comments below!