by Yesha Maniar
Maya Khan is in her mid-twenties and has spent most of her life choosing the path of least resistance. She aims to please her parents and fulfill their high hopes. However, on the day of her arranged marriage, she escapes the wedding in high heels and begins her life anew without the protection or expectations of her family.
Along the way, she works as a waitress, which unbeknownst to her is at a harem, seeks revenge against a married man she had an affair with, returns to college to complete her bachelor’s degree, and finds herself in the middle of a scandal both at work and in her love life. Maya learns much about herself as she hilariously lives life on her own terms.
Tanima Kazi’s debut fiction novel,”How to Escape an Arranged Marriage in High Heels,” is better than the average chick lit you read on vacations at the beach. As an avid reader of chick lit, I have read a variety of novels by different authors and every time I finish a book, I am always a little disappointed by the story. Either the main character is difficult to relate to or he/she is somewhat annoying.
[Purchase a copy of “How to Escape An Arranged Marriage in High Heels” here]
Chick lit books tend to follow one of two typical formulas. The first type of chick lit follows an uptight woman with a high-powered career as she meets a fun, loving man who teaches her how to enjoy life. The second type of chick lit follows a woman who lacks direction and finds herself in awkward situations as she meets a man who helps her take control of her life.
“How to Escape an Arranged Marriage in High Heels” definitely follows the latter formula, but with a more self-empowered character. While Maya encounters romantic interests and falls in love with a particular I.T. guy, she comes to learn a lot about her own potential as an individual.
Bangladeshi-born author, Kazi, successfully separates the finding yourself aspect of the storyline from the romantic aspect, so that Maya does not find success because of a man. Her love interest does not tell her how to succeed at her job nor does he meddle with her professional life—instead, she figures it all out for herself. It is a refreshing take on the standard storyline that we see in many novels with female protagonists.
Furthermore, it is rare to read about a South Asian main character in any novel. Kazi gracefully incorporates Maya’s experiences as a South Asian woman into the storyline while not making it only about Maya’s South Asian heritage.
While Kazi’s novel is a light-hearted one, she weaves in witty remarks about the safety net an arranged marriage provides. Like this one for example:
“The whole point of an arranged marriage is to avoid the heartache, uncertainty and rejection…The marriage is carried out by two individuals with a similar background to ensure a secure union and harmony.”
Kazi also touches upon intra-racism, President George W. Bush, and common stereotypes that South Asians face in America.
For the first time in a long while, I found myself thoroughly enjoying a chick lit novel and identifying with the main character’s experiences. And learning to bridge the gap between South Asian and American culture is something I have always struggled with, especially when it comes to the topics of love and marriage. But Kazi artfully explores that cultural gap through this enjoyable story.
Yesha Maniar is a recent graduate from Dartmouth College and currently teaches at a charter school in Boston. She enjoys reading a variety of genres and spends her free time in Boston cafe hopping. Next year, she will be attending Hofstra North Shore-LIJ School of Medicine with hopes of working with young children and adolescents in the future in the field of community health.