Rossomalai Reads: "Grown Up Pose" by Sonya Lalli
Anusha “Anu” Desai is in her thirties and lives in Vancouver, BC. She’s a daughter, a (separated) wife, and a mother. She was pressured into marrying her first serious boyfriend, Neil at 22, with whom she has a daughter. When describing herself, Anu throws out labels like “good Indian girl” - a phrase tinged with a bit of sarcasm, resentment, and perhaps even misplaced pride - to describe who she has become. This novel picks up at a moment in her life where Anu begins to question whether who she has become is who she truly desires to be. She’s painfully aware of how unhappy she is despite having done “everything right” - becoming a dutiful wife, then nurse, then responsible mother.
“Grown Up Pose” by Sonya Lalli can be described as a “coming of age story for a 30-year old” - and while Caucasian readers may roll their eyes at the thought of this, South Asian readers may feel a strange sense of relatability to the concept. Lalli writes a character that many of us deshis may see in ourselves: an adult by societal and cultural definitions, Anu realizes she may not in fact be “grown up”, having missed the key experiences and mistakes one needs to make to develop an understanding of who they are and what they want in life. Lalli paints an easily conveyed, but seldom heard story of a bicultural diasporic young adult, caught between two ideologies: the traditional, cultural norms and expectations from the homeland of her parents and the modern/contemporary ideals that a privileged upbringing in the West seeds. This book is refreshing in that Lalli also brings much needed representation by way of a story of a young (Brown) woman of colour who grew up in the West.
As an almost-thirty self described “good Bangali boy” myself, I found Lalli’s focus around the themes of self-care (or lack thereof in our community) thought-provoking as it’s a journey I am taking myself: to understand what self-care, self-love, and self-fulfillment means and how it applies to me. Further, as I followed Anu’s capricious, bizarre, and admittedly often-times selfish actions, I wondered where my sense of judgement for her was coming from. Was I judging her hasty and impulsive purchase of a flailing yoga studio as irresponsible because of the overvaluation of financial security instilled in me by my parents? Did I miss the train on following my dreams - regardless of cost - because I was too caught up nickeling and dimming my choices? Was my judgement of Anu - who straight up left her young daughter with her parents to go galavant the world and find herself - partly a manifestation of my learned guilt; a guilt that has time and time again contributed to me not doing what I want in order to appease and take care of my family?
At a time when desis are becoming more visible in the mainstream in the West, Lalli’s story is one that illustrates how much representation matters. Even though her characters can come off unlikeable at times (perhaps that was intentional?), and the questionable pacing she’s set throughout the book, Sonya Lalli compels readers from the South Asian diaspora to look inwards and reflect through the depiction of an average and very relatable main character. This is a refreshing story which is ideal for anyone looking for an easy sub 300-page weekend read that is relatable to the bicultural struggle. It won’t necessarily change or question your own experiences and perception of what it means to be “grown up,” but it will certainly remind you of your own journey to adulthood.
Rating: 3 out of 5 Rossomalais