First of all, I think I may have left some things out of the contest post. I’m going to post them here for everyone to see and then I’ll leave a comment on my contest post as well. Contest is open till midnight CST on Oct. 15. It is also opened internationally (provided you can tell me how to mail these books to you)!
Now on to Climbing the Stairs. As the future parent of half Indian children I have to say I absolutely loved this book. It will definitely go into a box of things to be saved for the ELF (Emily Lace or Edward Laurent Fred). But I think even without my connection to the Indian culture I would have adored this book anyhow.
For the most part it was accurate in its depiction of Indian culture (though it depicted India in 1941 not today). Many things have stayed the same. The one major flaw I saw in this depiction of a Tamilian (South Indian) Brahmin (Hindu faith’s educated caste) family was that they had a dog. Today, in India people don’t keep pets and Brahmin still believe they are untouchable. In 1941 there is no way they would have had a dog. But this book was intended for an American YA audience and I think most people wouldn’t have picked up on that. I did, but I can ignore because she uses the dog to set up metaphors for the treatment of women in pre-WWII India throughout the book.
It’s a historical fiction with a great deal of accuracy. It’s an issue book that stays interesting as it explores the treatment of women, the impoverished and really even the disabled. Though what I really loved, was the romance. The back of the book described it as a fairytale with a Cinderella (Vidya) who was unable to see it when her Prince Charming tried to rescue her. So I would have loved for the romance to come in earlier, but when it did it was strong. The thing that made it interesting was that the author was able to paint the romance so well and the characters couldn’t touch! It was a very interesting choice. It was a necessary choice. Even today in South India public displays of affection are tabu. Still, it was an interesting choice. Having a romance with characters that can’t hold hands, a Prince Charming who can’t hold Cinderella while she cries. This has me questioning all kinds of things. As a writer do I rely too heavily on physical touches to display emotion? Does my culture rely too heavily on contact to display love?
In fairness, I have to say the writing seemed to be missing something. There were elements that could have been stronger, still it’s a great book to read.