Balli Kaur Jaswal
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About Balli Kaur Jaswal
Balli Kaur Jaswal is the author of four novels, including Singapore Literature Prize finalist "Sugarbread," and the international bestseller "Erotic Stories for Punjabi Widows," which was a selection of Reese Witherspoon's Hello Sunshine book club. Her debut novel "Inheritance" won the Sydney Morning Herald's Best Young Australian Novelist award. Jaswal's non-fiction has appeared in the New York Times, Cosmopolitan.com, Harper's Bazaar India and Salon.com, among other publications. Her latest novel "The Unlikely Adventures of the Shergill Sisters" was released to critical acclaim in 2019, and is now available in paperback.
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Books By Balli Kaur Jaswal
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Reese Witherspoon’s Book Club Pick
A lively, sexy, and thought-provoking East-meets-West story about community, friendship, and women’s lives at all ages—a spicy and alluring mix of Together Tea and Calendar Girls.
Every woman has a secret life . . .
Nikki lives in cosmopolitan West London, where she tends bar at the local pub. The daughter of Indian immigrants, she’s spent most of her twenty-odd years distancing herself from the traditional Sikh community of her childhood, preferring a more independent (that is, Western) life. When her father’s death leaves the family financially strapped, Nikki, a law school dropout, impulsively takes a job teaching a "creative writing" course at the community center in the beating heart of London’s close-knit Punjabi community.
Because of a miscommunication, the proper Sikh widows who show up are expecting to learn basic English literacy, not the art of short-story writing. When one of the widows finds a book of sexy stories in English and shares it with the class, Nikki realizes that beneath their white dupattas, her students have a wealth of fantasies and memories. Eager to liberate these modest women, she teaches them how to express their untold stories, unleashing creativity of the most unexpected—and exciting—kind.
As more women are drawn to the class, Nikki warns her students to keep their work secret from the Brotherhood, a group of highly conservative young men who have appointed themselves the community’s "moral police." But when the widows’ gossip offers shocking insights into the death of a young wife—a modern woman like Nikki—and some of the class erotica is shared among friends, it sparks a scandal that threatens them all.
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The author of the Reese Witherspoon Book Club selection Erotic Stories for Punjabi Widows follows her acclaimed America debut with this life-affirming, witty family drama—an Indian This Is Where I Leave You—about three Punjabi sisters embarking on a pilgrimage to their homeland to lay their mother to rest.
The British-born Punjabi Shergill sisters—Rajni, Jezmeen, and Shirina—were never close and barely got along growing up, and now as adults, have grown even further apart. Rajni, a school principal is a stickler for order. Jezmeen, a thirty-year-old struggling actress, fears her big break may never come. Shirina, the peacemaking "good" sister married into wealth and enjoys a picture-perfect life.
On her deathbed, their mother voices one last wish: that her daughters will make a pilgrimage together to the Golden Temple in Amritsar to carry out her final rites. After a trip to India with her mother long ago, Rajni vowed never to return. But she’s always been a dutiful daughter, and cannot, even now, refuse her mother’s request. Jezmeen has just been publicly fired from her television job, so the trip to India is a welcome break to help her pick up the pieces of her broken career. Shirina’s in-laws are pushing her to make a pivotal decision about her married life; time away will help her decide whether to meekly obey, or to bravely stand up for herself for the first time.
Arriving in India, these sisters will make unexpected discoveries about themselves, their mother, and their lives—and learn the real story behind the trip Rajni took with their Mother long ago—a momentous journey that resulted in Mum never being able to return to India again.
The Unlikely Adventures of the Shergill Sisters is a female take on the Indian travel narrative. "I was curious about how different the trip would be if it were undertaken by women, who are vulnerable to different dangers in a male-dominated society," Balli Kaur Jaswal writes. "I also wanted to explore the tensions between tradition and modernity in immigrant communities, and particularly how those tensions play out among women like these sisters, who are the first generation to be raised outside of India."
Powerful, emotionally evocative, and wonderfully atmospheric, The Unlikely Adventures of the Shergill Sisters is a charming and thoughtful story that illuminates the bonds of family, sisterhood, and heritage that tether us despite our differences. Funny and heartbreaking, it is a reminder of the truly important things we must treasure in our lives.
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Pin must not become like her mother, but nobody will tell her why. She seeks clues in Ma’s cooking when she’s not fighting other battles—being a bursary girl at an elite school and facing racial taunts from the bus uncle. Then her meddlesome grandmother moves in, installing a portrait of a watchful Sikh guru and a new set of house rules. Old secrets begin to surface but can Pin handle learning the truth?
“This novel is sensitively written, and raises important issues subtly: racism and racialisation; religiosity and its relation to identity; patriarchal values; class; and the intersection of Christianity and capitalism in the wonderful speech about 'spiritual bank accounts'. All the characters have depth and complexity and the two layers of the narrative (the experiences of Pin and of her mother Jini) are skilfully blended. There are some beautiful descriptive passages, and I like the way in which metaphors are used sparingly, but to good effect.”
—Philip Holden, editor of Writing Singapore and Epigram Books Fiction Prize 2015 judge
“Pin is an earnest and enchanting child, through whose curious and clear-sighted eyes we see family life and complications and childhood cliques and racism. But this entertaining book also has touching insights into love, hope and wisdom, and characters that will stay with you long after you finish it.”
—Ovidia Yu, author of Aunty Lee’s Chilled Revenge
“This is the most glorious mic drop moment in Singaporean Literature. Sugarbread is such a tender and powerful response to the many celebrated voices in Singapore that represent minority experiences through tokenism or ignore them altogether. Balli Kaur Jaswal has made me feel like my ten-year-old self could be someone’s protagonist, like my skin belongs in the pages of books in my country. She’s turned the mirrors on Singapore and our conversations about identity in a spectacular fashion. Her prose is delicate, precise and aching. Her storytelling lingers with you for days. This novel is triumphant and absolutely essential reading for anyone who cares about living in this city.”
—Pooja Nansi, author of Love is an Empty Barstool
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As Singapore’s political and social landscapes evolve, the family must cope with shifting attitudes toward castes, youth culture, sex and gender roles, identity and belonging. Inheritance examines each family member’s struggles to either preserve or buck tradition in the face of an ever-changing nation.
“A rich and gorgeous portrait of a family—and nation—struggling against history, culture, and the grief of smashed hope.”
—Emily Maguire, author of Fishing for Tigers
“An exceptional debut. Balli Kaur Jaswal reveals the conflicts at the heart of one Punjabi family with such compassion, such accuracy, the effect is compelling. Her gifts are immense.”
—Andrew Cowan, author of Pig
“Inheritance is mesmerising. Balli Kaur Jaswal’s voice is rich in detail and emotional truth. I was carried away with the characters’ hopes and hurts. The book reminded me of the weight of family, but also how lost we are without it.”
—Simmone Howell, author of Everything Beautiful
“A vivid, compelling tale of selfhood, fraught blood ties and the devastating weight of change.”
—Meg Mundell, author of Black Glass
“Inheritance is a moving and assured debut, a perfectly balanced allegory, where the individual struggles of a family are underscored by the larger picture of nation-building and national identity. Balli Kaur Jaswal writes with compassion, intelligence and an empathetic eye, transporting the reader effortlessly through time and between points of view.”
—Leanne Hall, author of This Is Shyness
“Jaswal’s wonderful debut didn’t merely transport me to a country I knew nothing about, or introduce me to a family the likes of which I’d never meet. She made me long for her Singapore like a lost home, and miss her characters like departed friends. What an extraordinary thing for a novel to do.”
—Alexander Yates, author of Moondogs
Crazy Rich Asians meets The Help! From Reese’s Book Club veteran Balli Kaur Jaswal comes a wildly entertaining and sharply observed story of three women who work in the homes of Singapore’s elite, and band together to solve a murder mystery involving one of their own.
“Tender and heartfelt, Now You See us also manages to be laugh-out-loud funny. An uplifting story of courage and hope that will keep you enthralled until the very last page.”—Jean Kwok, New York Times bestselling author of Searching for Sylvie Lee
"A truly irresistible read. Intricately plotted, propulsive, and provocative, NOW YOU SEE US showcases an author at the peak of her talents."--Kirstin Chen, New York Times bestselling author of Counterfeit
Corazon, Donita, and Angel are Filipina domestic workers—part of the wave of women sent to Singapore to be cleaners, maids, and caregivers.
Corazon: A veteran domestic worker, Cora had retired back to the Philippines for good, but she has returned to Singapore under mysterious circumstances. Now she’s keeping a secret from her wealthy employer, who is planning an extravagant wedding for her socialite daughter.
Donita: Barely out of her teens, this is Donita’s first time in Singapore, and she’s had the bad luck to be hired by the notoriously fussy Mrs. Fann. Brazen and exuberant, Donita’s thrown herself into a love affair with an Indian migrant worker.
Angel: Working as an in-home caregiver for an elderly employer, Angel is feeling blue after a recent breakup with the woman she loves. She’s alarmed when her employer’s son suddenly brings in a new nurse who may be a valuable ally...or meant to replace her.
Then an explosive news story shatters Singapore’s famous tranquility—and sends a chill down the spine of every domestic worker. Flordeliza Martinez, a Filipina maid, has been arrested for murdering her female employer. The three women don’t know the accused well, but she could be any of them; every worker knows stories of women who were scapegoated or even executed for crimes they didn’t commit.
Shocked into action, Donita, Corazon, and Angel will use their considerable moxie and insight to piece together the mystery of what really happened on the day Flordeliza’s employer was murdered. After all, no one knows the secrets of Singapore’s families like the women who work in their homes…ered. After all, no one knows the secrets of Singapore’s elite like the women who work in their homes…