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I LOVED this book! It turned out to be a page-turning mix of humor, mystery, strong women taking down the patriarchy, and connection to my own culture. The heart of the novel is truly the ensemble cast of Punjabi women who congregate within Nikki's classes. Their courage in telling their stories emboldens more of the community to begin living in their truth. Pretty badass, I'd say!
Manasa— From Erotic Stories for Punjabi Widows
Reese Witherspoon’s Book Club Pick
A lively, sexy, and thought-provoking East-meets-West story about community, friendship, and women’s lives at all ages—a spicy and alluring mix of Together Tea and Calendar Girls.
Every woman has a secret life . . .
Nikki lives in cosmopolitan West London, where she tends bar at the local pub. The daughter of Indian immigrants, she’s spent most of her twenty-odd years distancing herself from the traditional Sikh community of her childhood, preferring a more independent (that is, Western) life. When her father’s death leaves the family financially strapped, Nikki, a law school dropout, impulsively takes a job teaching a "creative writing" course at the community center in the beating heart of London’s close-knit Punjabi community.
Because of a miscommunication, the proper Sikh widows who show up are expecting to learn basic English literacy, not the art of short-story writing. When one of the widows finds a book of sexy stories in English and shares it with the class, Nikki realizes that beneath their white dupattas, her students have a wealth of fantasies and memories. Eager to liberate these modest women, she teaches them how to express their untold stories, unleashing creativity of the most unexpected—and exciting—kind.
As more women are drawn to the class, Nikki warns her students to keep their work secret from the Brotherhood, a group of highly conservative young men who have appointed themselves the community’s "moral police." But when the widows’ gossip offers shocking insights into the death of a young wife—a modern woman like Nikki—and some of the class erotica is shared among friends, it sparks a scandal that threatens them all.
Balli Kaur Jaswal is the author of five novels, including Erotic Stories for Punjabi Widows which was a Reese Witherspoon's Book Club pick in 2018. Born in Singapore and raised in Japan, Russia and the Philippines, Jaswal studied creative writing at Hollins University in Virginia and worked as an English teacher in Australia and Turkey. She has held fellowships at the University of East Anglia and Nanyang Technological University, where she also completed her PhD in South Asian diaspora writing. Jaswal's non-fiction has appeared in the New York Times, Harper's Bazaar India, Refinery29 and Salon.com, among other publications.
“Jaswal tackles serious themes (arranged vs forced marriage, traditional vs modern culture) with a light and funny touvh. A page-turner your commute will thank you for.” — Glamour Magazine
“By turns erotic, romantic, and mysterious, this novel of women defying patriarchial strictures enchants.” — Kirkus Reviews
“A page-turner your commute will thank you for. Tackles serious themes with a light and funny touch.” — Glamour (UK)
“Warm and hilariously funny.” — Good Housekeeping (UK)
“Heady stuff ... a funny and moving tale of desire and its discontents.” — The Economist
“Charming ... This is a sparkling read.” — Publishers Weekly
“I loved this novel—it’s so big-hearted and earthy and funny. Best of all, it turns many preconceptions upside down, and opens up a world that so many of us have only glimpsed. A rattlingly good story.” — Deborah Moggach, author of THE BEST EXOTIC MARIGOLD HOTEL