Title: Born Confused
Author: Tanuja Desai Hidier
Release Date: October 1, 2002
Genre: Teen, Multicultural Fiction
Rating: 4 out of 5
Dimple Lala is tired of trying to please everyone else. Her parents expect so much of her, when all she wants to do is spend time taking photographs and developing them in her dark room. Her best friend Gwyn is too busy with her new boyfriend to really listen to what Dimple has to say. As she tries to navigate the difficult world of high school, Dimple tries to figure out whether she is American or Indian, and what each of those labels mean.
Anyone who is or remembers what it is like to be a teenager will understand the inner conflict at the center of Born Confused: Who am I? What does it mean to be me? In Dimple’s case, she is also struggling with the question of what it is to be Indian. Though she has mostly turned her back on her Indian culture, she questions that decision at times. As the book progresses, Dimple comes to understand that it doesn’t have to be an either-or choice. At the same time, she realizes that her Indian heritage is not something to be embarrassed about. Being different is not a bad thing.
There are some great issues within the pages of Born Confused: the expectations and pressures of parents and friends is a huge one. Dimple struggles beneath the weight of her parents’ expectations, though she doesn’t take the time to ask them what they actually want of her. As she comes to understand them more, she begins to see that they are not so different. At the same time, Gwyn believes that Dimple has a perfect life simply because her parents are still married and love one another. Dimple fights this perception; just because her family is whole does not mean that things are perfect. It’s a great message about pressure, expectations, and the fact that things aren’t always what you perceive them to be, especially if you’re looking in from the outside.
I really loved Dimple’s exploration of her culture and the lessons she comes away with, especially with regards to her parents and cousin. Her relationship with Gwyn changes, and becomes more difficult over the course of the book for multiple reasons. It becomes difficult to remember why Dimple and Gwyn are friends sometimes, though Dimple tries to be the best friend she can. Admittedly, this subplot drags a little.
Born Confused is a wonderful portrayal of a typically confused teenage girl trying to find her place in the world. While I do think it has great messages, this is one I would definitely read before handing over to a young teenager, as there is some content that many parents would find questionable. The book doesn’t wallow too much in teenage angst and as a result is a great book for adults interested in cultural awakenings and experiences. This is Tanuja Desai Hidier’s first novel, but I hope that she will consider writing more books, as she really captured the teenage voice and inner turmoil of learning to accept your culture and yourself.