American Betiya by Anuradha D. Rajurkar
Random House / Alfred A. Knopf
Publication Date: March 9, 2021
When Rani meets Oliver, sparks fly. Unfortunately, he is her Indian parents’ worst nightmare. As their relationship deepens, Rani finds herself breaking all the rules to be with Oliver, rejecting her parents’ ideas of propriety in the name of love. Sure, Oliver tends to romanticize her culture as “exotic” and he has expectations she doesn’t always feel comfortable with, but all relationships require compromise and sacrifice, right? When an unexpected family emergency takes Rani away to her family’s home in Pune, India for the summer, she must decide how much she is really willing to give up to be what Oliver needs.
This deep exploration of identity, culture vs cultural appropriation, sexuality, and different types of love is emotionally impactful and resonant for anyone who has tried to find the balance between being who your parents think you should be and being who you truly are. Many of Rani’s experiences with Oliver are of the more insidiously dangerous nature, slowly building into something possessive and controlling, and Rajurkar does an excellent job of articulating the complexity of what happens when first love goes wrong. Moments of hilarity and warm, familial love interspersed with the heady, obsessive nature of Oliver and Rani’s connection are well-fitted in this ultimately healing, hopeful story.
The Darius the Great books by Adib Khorram explore the potential complications of cross-cultural relationships and familial expectations, and Adiba Jaigirdar’s The Henna Wars tackles cultural appropriation. Bad Romance by Heather Demetrios and Kami Garcia’s Broken Beautiful Hearts offer further insight into unhealthy, abusive relationships.
—Allie Stevens (she/her)
Other Nominated Titles
- Can’t Take That Away by Steven Salvatore (March 9, 2021)
- House of Hollow by Krystal Sutherland (April 6, 2021)
- Lost in the Never Woods by Aiden Thomas (March 23, 2021)
The Selected Lists teams read throughout the year in search of the best titles published in their respective categories. Once a book is suggested (either internally or through the title suggestion form), it must pass through a review process to be designated an official nomination.
Each week, the teams feature a review of one of the officially nominated titles. Additional titles to receive this designation are listed as well. At year’s end, the team will curate a final list from all nominated titles and select a Top Ten. The previous years’ lists are available on The Hub.