Author Q&A and Book Review: When Dimple Met Rishi by Sandhya Menon

When Dimple Met RishiWhen Dimple Met Rishi by Sandhya Menon

Standalone

Genre: YA Contemporary

Publisher: Hachette Australia


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Summary:

A laugh-out-loud, heartfelt YA romantic comedy, told in alternating perspectives, about two Indian-American teens whose parents have arranged for them to be married.

Dimple Shah has it all figured out. With graduation behind her, she’s more than ready for a break from her family, from Mamma’s inexplicable obsession with her finding the “Ideal Indian Husband.” Ugh. Dimple knows they must respect her principles on some level, though. If they truly believed she needed a husband right now, they wouldn’t have paid for her to attend a summer program for aspiring web developers…right?

Rishi Patel is a hopeless romantic. So when his parents tell him that his future wife will be attending the same summer program as him—wherein he’ll have to woo her—he’s totally on board. Because as silly as it sounds to most people in his life, Rishi wants to be arranged, believes in the power of tradition, stability, and being a part of something much bigger than himself.

The Shahs and Patels didn’t mean to start turning the wheels on this “suggested arrangement” so early in their children’s lives, but when they noticed them both gravitate toward the same summer program, they figured, Why not?

Dimple and Rishi may think they have each other figured out. But when opposites clash, love works hard to prove itself in the most unexpected ways.

(source)


Q & A   W I T H   S A N D H Y A   M E N O N 


Sandhya Menon was kind enough to answer some questions for me about When Dimple Met Rishi, her creative process, YA fiction and what’s up next for her!

1. First off, I just want to say congratulations on your upcoming debut! Can you tell us a little about When Dimple Met Rishi and where the idea for the novel originated from?

Thank you so much! It’s funny, but the idea came from my editor. She had the concept for an arranged marriage between two teens, with one of them being for it and one of them being against it. I loved the idea so much I knew I had to write it.

Growing up in India, I’d seen my share of “shaadi-crazy” aunties and I knew Dimple’s mom, especially, would be a blast to write. What I didn’t expect was how much I’d fall in love with the characters and enjoy spending time in their universe. I’m so sad the book is over!

2. When Dimple Met Rishi has an absolutely stunning cover and what makes it even better is that it features a brown girl on the front! What was running through your mind when you first held a finished copy in your hands?

Fascination, humility, gratitude, and awe. I felt all of those in rotating sequences! Seriously, I don’t think they could’ve picked a better cover model than Brinda Guha; her smile is just brilliant. I love everything about the cover. Huge shout-out to Regina Flath, the cover designer, and Jennifer Ung, my editor, both of whom were passionate about getting it just right and making sure the representation matched what was inside.

3. Although issue stories are incredibly important, When Dimple Met Rishi is a breath of fresh air – a light, happy but nuanced contemporary that is just so delightful to read. What drew you to writing a YA contemporary novel as opposed to any other genre?

Thank you! This is the first light contemporary YA I’ve written. I wasn’t sure I had the voice for it at first, but once I got going I realized I enjoyed it so much! I’m a huge fan of novelists like Sophie Kinsella and Jane Green (and movies with Meg Ryan in them!), so I knew what tone I wanted to target. I fell in love with the sunshine-y world of Dimple and Rishi so much I decided I wanted to write more YA in the same vein! Hopefully readers will help me keep doing that. 🙂

4. Whilst Dimple is very headstrong in following her dream career, Rishi is a bit more reluctant and we see him struggle with this throughout the book. Was becoming a writer always part of your dream or did you have other plans in mind?

I always, always knew I wanted to become a writer. Some of my earliest memories revolve around filling notebooks with short stories and (terrible) poetry. I never thought I could be paid for it, though, so I majored in psychology in college. So glad I was wrong about that!

5. One of the (many) things I adored about When Dimple Met Rishi was that it incorporated arranged marriages and Indian culture into the narrative – elements that are sorely lacking from the current YA landscape. What are some other elements that you would love to see represented in books, YA or otherwise?

I’d love to see more YA books about severe poverty that are handled delicately, by people who’ve actually lived through it. I would also love to see many more books with trans and disabled main characters by own voices authors. And, of course, many, many more own voices books from people of every marginalized culture out there.

6. Whilst I was taking a little look through your Pinterest boards, I noticed that you have another contemporary novel scheduled for 2018. Are we able to get a sneak peek into the premise and characters?

I love that you looked at my Pinterest board—I didn’t think anyone was, since I don’t publicize it too much. So thank you for that!

As for the 2018 novel, it follows a 17-year-old Indian-American filmmaker who writes letters to her favorite female filmmakers as a way to deal with friendship/love/life drama. She’s also unaware that the boy she’s falling in love with online is the same nerdy boy she’s making a movie with at school. I’m so excited for people to read this one!

7. Last but not least, what are some of your favourite YA books? Especially any that feature South Asian representation!

I’m super excited for Nisha Sharma’s THE PERFECT ENDING and Tanaz Bhathena’s A GIRL LIKE THAT, both coming in 2018. If you like lyrical prose and fantasy (and I certainly do!), Roshani Chokshi’s STAR-TOUCHED QUEEN and the upcoming companion novel, A CROWN OF WISHES, are a must-read. I’ve also heard great things about SKUNK GIRL by Sheba Karim and BORN CONFUSED by Tanuja Desai Hidier, so both of those are on my (mile-long) TBR list.

(These don’t have South Asian rep, but I’m also so, so hyped for FOREST OF A THOUSAND LANTERNS by Julie C. Dao and DEAR MARTIN by Nic Stone!)


B O O K   R E V I E W


I was graciously provided an ARC of this book by the author & Hachette Australia. This is no way affects my thoughts!

I just want to take a moment to thank kismet for bringing me the opportunity to read this book. When Dimple Met Rishi spoke to my very soul – it was a book that I had (unknowingly) been searching for my whole life and it fills such a deep void in YA fiction – the lack of South Asian representation. Whilst this book will inevitably be labelled the “Indian contemporary” or blurbed as “Bollywood meets YA”, it was so much more than that – Sandhya Menon delivered pure magic with this book. It managed to be utterly hilarious, adorable and heartwarming but also incredibly nuanced – dismantling misogynistic traditions, casual racism and unconscious bias whilst also making you cry, laugh, swoon and everything in between.

There are so many things that I loved about this book (I could go on forever?) but here are a few:

  • DIMPLE SHAH & RISHI PATEL- Our title characters were such a delight to read about and they were both so strong and multi-faceted in their own ways. Dimple is strong, independent and unapologetic – she knows what she wants from life and nothing (not even a mother intent on finding her a husband) will stop her from reaching those goals. Rishi is basically the polar opposite of Dimple – he is unsure about the career path he’s taking, he is more strongly seeped in his culture and he believes so strongly in fate. Also, he may possibly be the CUTEST CHARACTER EVER TO HAVE EXISTED. It was such a delightful experience to watch the two of them collide and interact with each other and definitely provided much laughter (that coffee incident though!) and many awwws as well.
  • SOUTH ASIAN REPRESENTATION – YA contemporaries were one of my least favourite genres a little a while ago for the simple reason that I couldn’t relate to any of them. Growing up, South Asian representation in YA, let alone contemporaries, was absolutely unheard of and so I am SO GLAD When Dimple Met Rishi has started to fill that gap. Whilst both Dimple and Rishi come from Indian backgrounds, I think the topics explored – over bearing parents, unrealistic cultural expectations, ridiculously yummy food – will be universal to all South/Asian readers (and of course, non – South Asian readers will have an absolutely fantastic time as well!)
  • WELL BALANCED – Although Sandhya very much delivered a fast, funny and cute contemporary with When Dimple Met Rishi, I really appreciated that she also chose to tackle some deeper and more important issues as well. Not only was there a dismantling of some of the misogynistic traditions that occur within South Asian culture itself (i.e. the notion that women are not complete until they are happily settled in a marriage), there was also calling out of racism and unconscious bias.
  • RELATABLE – Whilst this may be the same as South Asian representation, I could cry at how relatable this book was. There was one scene that I just want to draw attention to because it was FANTASTIC – Rishi calling Hari out at dinner. I won’t say much more about particulars but not only did this scene deal with the bias Hari has against his Indian heritage, it also deals with the very real embarrassment that is so common amongst first/second generation teens in Western countries. Trying to be “normal” and fit in often leads many teens to try and play off their cultural backgrounds and I LOVED that Rishi so unapologetically loved his culture and vocally declared how important it was to him time after time. I think this scene (and book as a whole) could really go a long way in showing teens that it’s completely okay to embrace and be proud of your cultural background and IT’S JUST SO NEEDED *breaks down sobbing*.

Did you think I was joking when I said I could go on and on about this book? If you need any more persuasion after that love letter of a review – just please, please pick up When Dimple Met Rishi! It is such a fantastic read that has appeal for absolutely all readers and I promise you’ll have an absolute blast flying through it.

4-5


U N T I L   N E X T   T I M E ,

happyreadingjananee


O T H E R   P L A C E S   I   S C R E A M   A B O U T   B O O K S 

T W I T T E R   –   I N S T A G R A M  –  Y O U T U B E  –  G O O D R E A D S


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