What a Desi Girl Wants by Sabina Khan

The plot of Sabina Khan’s recent book, What a Desi Girl Wants, revolves around the life of Mehar Rabbani, a mixed race girl who lives in Newton, Kansas. Speaking her mind is Mehar’s brand, which doesn’t always work in her favor. Prone to whining, Mehar hates being reasonable—a trait that backfires on her when she makes a trip to India to reconnect with her family on her father’s side.

Hoping to salvage her relationship with her father, Mehar is intent on apologizing to him and mending their fractured bond. She also wishes to reconnect with her judgy grandma while in India for her father’s wedding. Uncertain about this cultural experience, where differences are everywhere, Mehar is prepared to put up with the pain of her father being indulgent with Aleena, his fiancé’s daughter, and a disciplinarian with Mehar. Everything seems to revolve around rules, expectations, and appearances in this new culture. Despite the wild traffic, dense crowds, and culture gap, Mehar finds herself enjoying the differences she encounters.

With Muzaffar, she shares her nerdy superhero obsession, in Sufiya she discovers a young woman devoted to the family matriarch, and from Azra Aunty, Mehar learns certain truths about her mother. Even Dadi (her grandmother) treasures her granddaughter.

In addition to Khan’s book being a novel about self-discovery, it is also about India, especially the cuisine. From entrées to desserts, sweets, and beverages, the reader learns about a culture. Not just its foods, though, the novel describes Indian customs and wedding practices. It shares beliefs, fashion, and family ties.

Eventually, many of the prejudices Mehar harbors, she must abandon.  Mehar has to ask herself whether she wants to make an enemy of her potential stepsister or try to build some kind of relationship with her, whether she wants to sabotage her father’s wedding or find pleasure in his new-found joy.

Ultimately, What a Desi Girl Wants is rooted in a basic truth, that one act of kindness and understanding, a single moment of connection, can make all the difference.

  • Posted by Donna

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