If I had been a boy, my birth in a bountiful year would have marked me as lucky, a child with a special destiny to fulfill. But daughters were curses. A daughter had to be married off before she could enter heaven, and dowries beggared families for generations. Gods with infinite memories visited girl children on women who needed to be punished for sins committed in other incarnations.
Bharati Mukherjee's novel is another one of those multicultural stories of alienation and hybrid identity.
The protagonist, Jyoti or Jasmine Vijh, is born in a small Indian village with very little to hope for in life. She becomes one of the lucky ones to find a husband whom she loves. He dreams of getting a job in America while she is still struggling with the modern idea of calling him by his first name.
After being widowed at seventeen, Jasmine decides to leave her home country and make her way to America. Getting there illegally from the other side of the world is anything but easy, but somehow Jasmine makes it. She recreates her identity in America, becoming Jane Ripplemeyer, a banker's wife and the adoptive mother to a Vietnamese boy in Ohio. As she takes on new roles, she needs to compromise and find ways to leave something behind. Her hybridity and her restlessness remain.
It is interesting that even the narrative style of the novel seems to shift and change as Jasmine moves between locations and shifts identities. The section of the novel that deals with her childhood and life in India is somehow lucid yet nostalgic, while her life in America is described in a much more fragmented way, which, to me, felt more foreign and was difficult to read.
There are hundreds of books with similar themes and unfortunately this one does not stand out for me in any way.
Bharati Mukherjee: Jasmine. Virago. 1991.
Wikipedia: Bharati Mukherjee
Emory University: Bharati Mukherjee