“Erotic Stories for Punjabi Widows” by Balli Kaur Jaswal Review

“Erotic Stories for Punjabi Widows” by Balli Kaur Jaswal Review

In short: I really liked this book

I picked this book up when I recently treated myself to a visit to my local bookstore. I say “treat”, because while the bookstore is adorable and ~quaint~, the books are also priced about 500% the price of amazon. The fact that I chose this overpriced book to buy should say something about it in and of itself (or just an ode to its oh-so-cute cover).

Brief Summary: Broadly, the book tells a story of the Punjabi community in London. Readers follow Nikki, a “lost twenty-something” who has to deal with not meeting up to her family’s traditions and expectations. She dropped out of law school and subsequently is working at a pub when she answers an advertisement to teach creative writing classes at a Punjabi community center for widows.

When Nikki arrives, it turns out that the women are illiterate. The class then spirals into an oral erotic story-telling workshop.

Along the way, Nikki has to grapple with “seeing” a guy who obviously has a secret, her sister pursuing an arranged marriage, and being a key player in a murder mystery.

The Big Idea:

The erotic storytelling classes are meant to be a place of sisterhood and empowerment for the Punjabi women. While they do live in a sexually repressive culture, the stories represent something bigger. They represent the women taking charge of something-something illicit, something that’s a VERY big “no-no” in their community- and doing it anyway. While in this case it’s dirty stories, the overcoming of their social constraints is meant to represent them “breaking free” in their lives overall.

Reading Experience: Overall, the book was entertaining and I was excited to turn to the next page. I believe the main characters were well-developed (Admittedly, I definitely related to Nikki’s “lost twenty-something” thing. If I hadn’t, I could see not feeling as attached to her character as I did). I will say I think the widows could have had more character development- in a way the author created a little microcosm of the Punjabi community through the writing class, and I’m not sure if it was fully taken advantage of. Besides Sheena to some extent (and Tarampal, if you consider her part of the group), I found it hard to find identifying characteristics among the widows. They all seemed to fill the same “role.”

From reading others’ reviews, I learned that some believe the book portrays the Punjabi community in a stereotypical way. As I have no experience with Punjabi culture (especially London Punjabi culture) I have no way to either confirm or deny that. I will say that I enjoyed reading about Punjabi culture though- one of my favorite things about reading is that it allows me to “experience” different lives that I have never (and probably will never) live.

One note about the “erotic stories” part of the book, as I’m sure you’re wondering 😉 It’s quite an interesting title, and I when I first picked it up I wasn’t sure what to expect! Fair Warning- there are quite a few actual erotic stories in the book. The reader “reads” the stories the class created. I will say that I probably found this to be the most boring part of the book, and after the first one I “got the point.”

When I picked this book up, I had no intention of reading an actual erotic book, and sometimes I feel like this veered into that territory (although definitely by no means completely, and please don’t let that dissuade you from reading it- just sometimes as a reader I was left to wonder “What is the author’s intention here?!” at certain parts). The major theme of the book is Punjabi women empowering themselves wholly through becoming sexually empowered, not erotica.

Still, sometimes it was a little much.

Overall, I really enjoyed the book and out of a 5-corgi scale, give it 4 corgis.

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