Keeping Corner by Kashmira Sheth
ISBN-13: 978-0786838608
Hyperion Books, New York, 2009
304 p.

GENRE: General Fiction

TEASER: Leela is a twelve-year-old widow. As a widow she is an outcast. But changes is looming in early 1900s India. Will Leela be able to make a life for herself after all?

SUMMARY: Twelve-year-old Leela has been doted on by her family all her life. She pays little attention to her country’s growing unrest. There is no point for her to. Her future has been mapped out for her since her engagement to Ramanlal at the age of two. They have been married since she was nine and soon she will move into his house and start her new life as his wife. But all of that changes when Ramanlal is bitten by a snake and Leela is made a widow. As a widow she is an outcast and is not allowed to leave the house. She must only wear a black sari and shave her head. Leela goes from being the prize of her family to the seat of their shame. But the activist Ghandhi is trying to take back their country and change the rigid social system that has been in place for centuries. maybe Leela will have a chance to fight for her rights and her future after all.

CRITIQUE: This story is told through the eyes of Leela in first-person perspective. Leela’s character develops quite a bit in this novel. She starts off as a naive girl who only cares about pretty bangles and sari. She is in one of the higher castes and pays little attention the inequalities in her country. When her husband dies, she is forced to see what it is like at the bottom of the social structure. She learns how to open her eyes to the ill-treatment of widows and the rising tensions between the British and her countrymen. She is able to take control of her future and ask her father to let her take the exams that will allow her to be educated.

Sheth’s prose are rich with Indian culture. There are however a good deal of Hindi words used. There is a translation section in the back of the book. I mentioned similar problems with Down to the Bone. I feel if might have helped to be at the front of the book. This is probably just a personal preference. I do feel that the language adds a richness and sets the atmosphere for the novel.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR: Kashmira Sheth was born in Bhavangar, India. She moved to the United States at the age of seventeen to attend college at Iowa State University. She majored in microbiology. After college she worked as a microbiologist at Wisconsin Department of Agriculture. Some of her other titles include: Blue Jasmine, Koyal Dark, Mango Sweet, Monsoon Afternoon, and My Dadima Wears a Sari. The story of Keeping Corner is based on Kashmira’s aunt’s life.

AUTHOR’S WEBSITE: http://kashmirasheth.typepad.com/my_weblog/

READING LEVEL: 12+

CHALLENGE ISSUES: N/A

DEFENSE: N/A

CURRICULUM TIES: Women’s Studies, Indian Culture

BOOKTALKING IDEAS: Discuss the changes Leela goes through as she is forced to take a look at the social structure when she finds herself at the bottom.

WHY INCLUDED: I wanted to included another cultural perspective in this database and I came across this book in my local library.