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Winner of the SheWrites New Novelist competition 2011Mohana's entry out of all of them stood out for its story and for its distinct and engaging voice Mohana made us want to read Kamy Wicoff author and founder of She Writescom Sita is the firstborn but since she is a female child her birth makes life difficult for her mother who is expected to produce a son From the start Sita finds herself in a culture hostile to her but her irrepressible personality won’t be subdued Born in India she immigrates as a toddler to the US with her parents after the birth of her much anticipated younger brother Sita shifts between the vastly different worlds of her WASP dominated school and her father’s insular traditional home Her journey takes us beneath tales of successful middle class Indians who immigrated to the US in the 1980s The gap between positive stereotypes of South Asian immigrants and the reality of Sita's family who are struggling to stay above the poverty line is a relatively new theme for Indian literature in English Sita's struggles to be American and yet herself take us deeper into understanding the dilemmas of first generation children and how religion and culture define women Cover design by Law AlsobrookCover photography by Guiri R Reyes


10 thoughts on “An Unlikely Goddess

  1. says:

    Sita makes an inauspicious entry into the world she’s a girl rather than the son that would have made her Hindu parents proud Later after the longed for son has arrived her parents move the family from India to the USA Sita grows up having to cope with the wildly different cultures of home and school How will she escape from the confines of her father’s home?Sita doesn’t really fit in anywhere not even within her own family where she’s always made to feel she’s not good enough Her parents’ dysfunctional marriage which brings neither of them joy or comfort results in her dictatorial father and her meek mother both being incapable of giving her the love she craves Growing up in this emotional poverty Sita draws our sympathy which is only increased as she attempts to hide from the outside world that her family are barely living above the poverty line We become totally immersed in her plight hoping that she’ll be able to find a way outWhile the women who influence Sita are described with great clarity some of the men seem less distinct and nuanced Initially Brad an all American Christian takes the plot and Sita’s life in a new direction but his motives become obscure as the story progresses Sita’s father appears uite stereotypical until the end when he makes a surprising gesture which I found incredibly moving I want to re read this story to see if perhaps I missed something about the portrayal her father on first readingAt one level this is a story of culture clash assimilation and women’s role in society At a deeper level Sita isn’t simply a cipher for the first generation experience she’s a complicated individual Even when I didn’t agree with or even fully empathise with her decisions she remains true to her character And that’s where I believe the strength of this powerful story lies; in the creation of a vulnerable girl who matures into a wonderfully complex woman I’d like to thank the author for sending me an advance review copy of this book


  2. says:

    Intense and emotional Those are the first two words that come to mind with respect to this exuisitely written novelI love how Rajakumar keeps this novel completely immersed in the culture without trying to westernize the entire story to increase sales Rather she works clashing cultures and lifestyles into a single individual who has to reconcile them for herself Rajakumar’s straightforward writing style contrasts with her intricate descriptions to create a very uniue feel for the novel as a whole She invokes empathy sympathy and censure in her audience while allowing them to journey along with the characterThe gradual character development in this novel coincides with the life of the main character She becomes a very fully developed character by the end of this novel I really enjoyed how this novel was completely female dominated right down to character development The female characters close to the main character are individually developed in detail As a reader you get to know them uite well In general the character development for the male characters is much vaguer It is as if they stay aloof from the main character and thus from the audience It definitely adds a uniue element to the story Please note that I received this novel free of charge from the author in exchange for an honest review


  3. says:

    An awesome book which I couldn't put down The character Sita develops throughout the book and am sure we can all relate to some aspect of her life Every mother should read this book as to how to handle our children in this new society and be their friend and not let them suffer as Sita did inside All the characters are superbly depicted as is every new place Sita describes A must read


  4. says:

    Review coming next week


  5. says:

    A novel about Indians outside of Indiabut with the family still clinging to the s values and traditions of their motherland while the next generation struggles to break free and find its own place in between two worldsI'm a third generation Indian so this description above fits a lot of what life has been like for me too though to a lesser degree of a first generation Indian like Sita I had the benefit of having parents and family only 'just' clinging to the des' ways but I still empathize and understand the struggle of any Indian immigrant living in a 'modernWestern' countryAnd that's probably why I connected with this book so much Thank goodness my experience has never been as dire as Sita's but I could understand everything Ms Rajakumar set out in this book The mindset I totally got it but I think I would've gotten it too even if I hadn't been of Indian origin The writing is just so stark and raw the emotions stripped from any glamour and staring at you in their utter nakedness how can you not be moved by this prose?Yes sometimes the writing jumps from one age to another like when Sita has lice and then it is mentioned how throughout her adulthood including her seven times as a bridesmaid she never forgot the spectre of the lice but at that point in the story she's just a tween It's a tad hard to keep up with the jumps in time along the narrative but you can get the gist of it even if at times I've had to reread some paragraphs just to find out where I got 'lost'One thing I dunno if it's just mebut I thought the setting could've been better explainedspelt out especially the India parts I've watched tons of Bollywood flicks that took place in the era where much of this story is set and I know what India islooks like so I had no trouble picturing it all actually coming up with my own images while reading But for someone not familiar with India esp circa 80s 90s this could be a bit of a blank because the author doesn't really describe the place; just gives hints like reed sheets on the floor imo you need to have seen one even if on the screen to know what she means by thisBut on the whole this book was captivating I absolutely hated Sita's father throughout but at the same time I was sadly nodding along because I totally understood how and why he was as he was and why her mother effaced herself so much from the picture why the adoration was reserved for the male child and the daughter made to feel like an afterthought It shouted out loud this is Indian mindset I screamed and cried and bled for Sita cheering her on throughout wanting and waiting for her to break free and come into herself the way any girl should be able to never mind her originsWant an immersion into Indian culture? Then read this book But be ready it's hard harsh poignant and not for the faint of heart You need solid guts to get through this without wanting to rip apart one or two characters along the way


  6. says:

    Independent novel review An Unlikely Goddess by Mohana RajakumarUnlike most independent authors Mohana Rajakumar known on Twitter as MohaDoha eschews genre writing Her novels include elements of romance but they do not follow the conventional girl meets boy storyAn Unlikely Goddess is mainstream literature and you can even look at it as part of the stream of books about the Indian immigrant experience along with Rohinton Mistry and Michael Ondaatje The storyThe novel follows Sita from her birth in India Her mother Mythili and the whole family are bitterly disappointed that her first born child is a girl “What if he leaves me?” is her first thought after seeing her daughter Mythili’s sister in law Priya drops the new born on the hospital floorSita’s life doesn’t get better after that Her parents Mythili and Sundar never fail to remind Sita of how much she disappoints them throughout her life This gets worse after Mythili gives birth to a boy Manoj When Mythili is still a young child the family emigrates to Florida of all places where Sundar gets a perpetually temporary job as a researcher in a university But Sundar never manages to get a promotion or even a permanent position so he is never able to afford much of a lifestyle He and his family can only look enviously at the success and socio economic climb of other Indian immigrants as they move to large suburban homes and buy expensive carsWhat I likedCharacterization is the main strength of An Unlikely Goddess Not only do we see the action through Sita’s eyes Rajakumar’s prose enables us to experience an entire world through Sita — especially her conflicted feelings toward her parentsThe secondary characters are also well developed and they grow believably too Mythili gradually becomes aware of the subservience she’d been socialized to accept and begins to develop some independence from her husband Sundar goes through several stages of anger and resentment blaming his family for his own career failures but finally begins to mellow and even accept his daughter’s untraditional desiresThe only weak part is the last love interest Richard He’s just too good to be true — but then after everything that the author has put her main character through she deserves a really great guyProfessional styleMohana Rajakumar is a prolific and professional independent author An Unlikely Goddess is her eighth book and her bibliography includes novels story collections anthologies and non fictionAn Unlikely Goddess is well written well edited and has a professionally designed cover The author’s style is clean and easy to read Rajakumar is another independent author who reinforces the point that the commercial publishers have no monopoly on uality5


  7. says:

    An Unlikely Goddess is the story of a girl named Sita pronounced See ta born in India raised in America a Hindu who converted to Christianity a first born who was despised by her father who wanted a son and a resolute individual who struggled to find hope in spite of her upbringingBased in part on the character Sita in the Hindu epic The Ramayana An Unlikely Goddess is truly a story that transcends religion geography and circumstances as we follow Sita through childhood adolescence and adulthood The issues of acceptance identity and expectations both gender and culture predominate throughout the book Faith is a given a fair honest and realistic treatment as Sita navigates not just the different cultural landscape she finds in America but also the very different religious landscape as wellOne of the strengths of this book is that in so many ways Sita’s story is the story of children teenagers and adults of different cultures and faiths because of the universal human need for faith hope and love I was hooked into this novel from the beginning because it reveals the great human need for faith hope and loveNote I was given a e copy of this novel by the author without the expectation of a positive review


  8. says:

    An unlikely Goddess is the story of Sita a girl born into the traditional Indian family though as the first born she is not as welcome as she would have been if she had been a boy Throughout the Sita's life in India and in America she is face with obstacles that have much to do with her cultural upbringing traditional parents and the American culture surrounding her than anything else It is Sita's journey in life to find out who she is and where she belongs I have read a number of books by Mohanalakshmi Rajakumar and this story does what many of here other books do present a culture clash and how the person stuck in the middle is able to find their way with a balance of tradition and current culture The author writes this in such a way that it serves as a very realistic picture of how people thrown into new cultures can sink or swim depending on their determination and their decisions on what to hold on to and what to let go Along with this cultural awareness this book is simply a good read as well with plenty of family drama romance and growth in a very solid main character


  9. says:

    Sita is the firstborn but since she is a female child her birth makes life difficult for her mother who is expected to produce a son From the start Sita finds herself in a culture hostile to her but her irrepressible personality wont be subdued Born in India she immigrates as a toddler to the US with her parents after the birth of her much anticipated younger brother Sita shifts between the vastly different worlds of her WASP dominated school and her fathers insular traditional home Her journey takes us beneath tales of successful middle class Indians who immigrated to the US in the 1980s The gap between positive stereotypes of South Asian immigrants and the reality of Sita's family who are struggling to stay above the poverty line is a relatively new theme for Indian literature in English Sita's struggles to be American and yet herself take us deeper into understanding the dilemmas of first generatio n children and how religion and culture define women


  10. says:

    An Unlikely Goddess is a story of a girl growing into womanhood of family conflict and of the immigrant experience Mohanalakshmi Rajakumar skillfully weaves the story line of the protagonist Sita with the mythology of the Hindu goddess Sita Themes of family family violence traditional values vs American values and growing up as an immigrant in the US are handled with maturity Sita's character is fully developed yet I wished some of the other characters were deeply developed I wanted to understand the father's actions better Nevertheless this is a solid story with a satisfying romance and it is enjoyable to follow Sita's growth from infant to adult I have read much of this author's published work so far and her writing style voice and subject matter gets better with each book I am looking forward to reading the next one