Authors Showcase: An Unlikely Goddess by Mohanalakshmi Rajakumar
March 23, 2015
The Book: An Unlikely Goddess
The Author: Mohanalakshmi Rajakumar
The Story: “When a title fits the book in every way with everything within the tale, its like the sprinkles on top of a cake”
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 U.S. 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 U.S. 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.
About Mohanalakshmi Rajakumar:
Mohanalakshmi Rajakumar is a South Asian American who has lived in Qatar since 2005. Moving to the Arabian Desert was fortuitous in many ways since this is where she met her husband, had two sons, and became a writer. She has since published eight e-books, including a momoir for first time mothers, Mommy But Still Me; a guide for aspiring writers, So You Want to Sell a Million Copies; a short story collection, Coloured and Other Stories; and a novel about women’s friendships, Saving Peace.
Her coming of age novel, An Unlikely Goddess, won the SheWrites New Novelist competition in 2011.
Her recent books have focused on various aspects of life in Qatar. From Dunes to Dior, named as a Best Indie book in 2013, is a collection of essays related to her experiences as a female South Asian American living in the Arabian Gulf. Love Comes Later was the winner of the Best Indie Book Award for Romance in 2013 and is a literary romance set in Qatar and London. The Dohmestics is an inside look into compound life, the day-to-day dynamics between housemaids and their employers.
After she joined the e-book revolution, Mohana dreams in plotlines. Learn more about her work on her website at www.mohadoha.com or follow her latest on Twitter: @moha_doha.
Review by James J. Kane:
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 upbringing.
Based 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 well.
One 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 love.
Review by Pure Jonel:
Intense and emotional. Those are the first two words that come to mind with respect to this exquisitely written novel.
I 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 unique feel for the novel as a whole. She invokes empathy, sympathy, and censure in her audience while allowing them to journey along with the character.
The 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 quite 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 unique element to the story.