I thought it would be fun to do a ‘compare and contrast review of these two books, one published all the way back in 2004 and one to be published in January 2018.
I loved both these books: romance-driven, fun coming-of age stories of Indian (or South Asian) American girls, one Hindu, one Muslim, negotiating their way between two cultures and community. Both girls have a best friend who is white American and a run-in with a ‘suitable boy’ their parents adore (with varying results) and both girls are into photography/videography, Dimple in Born Confused takes photographs on her beloved film camera, while Maya in Love, Hate & Other Filters is never without her trusty digital video camera.
But let’s start with the covers.
Born Confused’s cover has had a number of iterations but basically has a ‘Bollywood’ style cropped poster of a film actress in (somewhat old fashioned) classically heavy make up with a sari border hiding her lower face. Love, Hate…. on the other hand has a simpler cover: brown girl plus camera, with a faintly pink wall with some rangoli-type graffiti patterns behind it on the UK cover.
I loved Born Confused’s fun kitsch but imagine young readers will prefer the more generic YA cover of Love Hate & Other Filters? Identity is complicated, and young people working their way through it don’t necessarily want a cover that screams difference.
Both protagonists have great teen voices, Maya in LH &OF is more serious and restrained than Dimple in BC but also has more to contend with than identity issues and love triangles (the ‘hate’ part of the title.
Born Confused is a beautifully digressive, meandering romp through the era (’90s in the UK, perhaps later in the US) when, briefly, Bollywood, bhangra and bindis were all the rage and not only for us brown people. I adored how everything from cultural appropriation to identity politics & transphobia were discussed and mulled over by (bless) poor confused Dimple. Dimple comes to realise that one’s identity is perhaps more like a ship, navigating through changing waters, with no absolutes but following one’s own star…
Post 9/11 and with the recent resurgence of ISIS, Islamophobia is a real issue in the West, encouraged by not only crazy fringe elements but the mainstream media and politicians. Muslim representation in children’s and YA has become a necessary corrective.
Love, Hate and Other Filters shows how Maya is in some ways perfectly secure in her Indian-Muslim American culture: she wears silk kurthis with jeans and has no hesitation passing on the ‘suitable boy’ her parents introduce her to. But Maya, like Dimple, is isolated in her almost all-white high-school environment and when a terrorist attack strikes a nearby town and the perpetrator is (wrongly) thought to be a Muslim the fear and pain of the hate Maya experiences is made very real…though (thankfully) with a happy if bittersweet ending.
I’d have loved reading these books in my distant teenage past and I’m so happy that my daughter and her friends will get to enjoy them both.
Born Confused by Tanuja Desai Hidier
Love, Hate & Other Filters by Samira Ahmed