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Erotic Stories for Punjabi Widows: A Novel Hardcover – June 13, 2017

4.3 out of 5 stars 2,623 ratings

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Editorial Reviews


“Jaswal tackles serious themes (arranged vs forced marriage, traditional vs modern culture) with a light and funny touvh. A page-turner your commute will thank you for.” -- Glamour Magazine

“By turns erotic, romantic, and mysterious, this novel of women defying patriarchial strictures enchants.” -- Kirkus Reviews

“A page-turner your commute will thank you for. Tackles serious themes with a light and funny touch.” -- Glamour (UK)

“Warm and hilariously funny.” -- Good Housekeeping (UK)

“Heady stuff ... a funny and moving tale of desire and its discontents.” -- The Economist

“Charming ... This is a sparkling read.” -- Publishers Weekly

“I loved this novel―it’s so big-hearted and earthy and funny. Best of all, it turns many preconceptions upside down, and opens up a world that so many of us have only glimpsed. A rattlingly good story.” -- Deborah Moggach, author of THE BEST EXOTIC MARIGOLD HOTEL

From the Back Cover

Every woman has a secret life . . .

Nikki, a modern daughter of Indian immigrants, has 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 impulsively takes a job teaching a “creative writing” course at the community center in the beating heart of London’s close-knit Punjabi community. 

The proper Sikh widows who show up are expecting to learn English, not short-story writing. When one of the widows finds a book of erotica and shares it with the class, Nikki realizes that beneath their white dupattas, her students have a wealth of fantasies and memories that they’ve held in for far too long. 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 the class grows, a group called the Brothers, who have appointed themselves Southall’s “moral police,” threaten to reveal the class's scandalous stories and the mysterious secrets lurking beneath this seemingly sedate, tight-knit community.  

A lively, sexy, and thought-provoking East-meets-West story about community, friendship, and women’s lives at all ages, Erotic Stories for Punjabi Widows is a reader’s delight.

Product details

  • Publisher ‏ : ‎ William Morrow; First Edition (stated), First Printing (June 13, 2017)
  • Language ‏ : ‎ English
  • Hardcover ‏ : ‎ 304 pages
  • ISBN-10 ‏ : ‎ 0062645129
  • ISBN-13 ‏ : ‎ 978-0062645128
  • Item Weight ‏ : ‎ 1 pounds
  • Dimensions ‏ : ‎ 6.3 x 1.3 x 9 inches
  • Customer Reviews:
    4.3 out of 5 stars 2,623 ratings

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Balli Kaur Jaswal is the author of four novels, including Singapore Literature Prize finalist &quot;Sugarbread,&quot; and the international bestseller &quot;Erotic Stories for Punjabi Widows,&quot; which was a selection of Reese Witherspoon's Hello Sunshine book club. Her debut novel &quot;Inheritance&quot; 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 &quot;The Unlikely Adventures of the Shergill Sisters&quot; was released to critical acclaim in 2019, and is now available in paperback.

Customer reviews

4.3 out of 5 stars
4.3 out of 5
2,623 global ratings

Top reviews from the United States

Reviewed in the United States on April 27, 2018
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Reviewed in the United States on September 5, 2018
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5.0 out of 5 stars Controversial name, beautiful and meaningful story inside. Absolutely read it!
By Evelina AvalinahsBooks on September 5, 2018
Erotic Stories for Punjabi Widows was... Amazing. That's all I can say about it in short, because if I open my mouth to talk more, I might just never shut up about it. Despite the really scandalous sounding name, you should really, really, REALLY read this book. It's especially recommended to women. It might change your understanding of womanhood, and the same goes for community relations and traditions. Erotic Stories for Punjabi Widows is 2017 release that is definitely not to be missed. I find it hard to remember a book this year that touched me more.

Let me get this straight. No, this book is not erotica. It's not romance. But! Yes, this book has a couple erotic stories. Yes, you might want to read it in private. However! The stories in this book are meant to look like they are written by women who can't even write or read – they come from the heart, from experience, from loneliness and the pain of the feminine condition, so to say – when a woman is not treasured, not respected. The stories are a longing to be equal, to be loved, to be ALLOWED TO FEEL PLEASURE and to express yourself on equal terms with a man. Or a woman, for that matter. So to tell you what to expect – no, you won't be reading this book for the erotic stories. The stories are a tool. However, the stories will open up a much deeper meaning of the kinds of problems women have faced for CENTURIES. And the kinds of problems women still face a lot in a lot of societies.

So now that we've got the erotic stories bit out of the way, we can talk more about the plot of this book. And it's a complicated one – you can not shelve this book into any trope, plot or genre. It's complex and it will give you food for thought. Starting out whimsical and upbeat, it gives you an impression of a fun and easy read at first – but that's not all it is. It does have its dark and complicated moments, and it delves deep into the problems of a community, particularly one that is fixated on purported purity and keeping up a family's honor. Which is irreconcilable with the modern world, especially where it forces 'duties' upon the woman, without giving her any rights or respecting her choices. Perhaps the scariest part of it isn't even the women who are forced into living a life like that, but women who wholeheartedly believe in a lifestyle like this (for those who've read the book, an example would be Tarampal.) There is nothing sadder than a person from an oppressed group identifying with the oppressors and defending their cause. That is the ultimate defeat. Erotic Stories for Punjabi Widows will present a lot of points of view of women like this, and you won't be able to help understanding them all, even the ones like Tarampal, who have identified with their torturers.

Nikki and Mindi – the modern sister and the slightly more traditional sister – show the difference between generations and traditional versus modern so well. Both Niki and Mindi seem to be slightly hyperbolized versions of those sides, and they show the clash very well. While Nikki was slightly annoying to read because she is indeed irresponsible and doesn't consider that some of the things her sister and mother do or say make, in fact, a lot of sense, you still couldn't disregard that her more modern and feminist outlooks are closer to home for most of us. And Mindi was also hard to stomach because of how she defers to traditionalism and "the woman's place" in society and family, but then again, you couldn't disregard that she is right about so many things about Nikki, and she's been there because she's older. Instead of rebelling, she just sighs and keeps going, or tries to find a more socially appropriate solution to a problem. Nikki and Mindi also show the clash between cultures, the more traditional Indian culture in the case of Mindi, and cosmopolitan or individualistic culture in Nikki – because she's younger and the Western ways have rubbed off on her much more than Mindi. Both ways of living are valid – but it illustrates very well the struggles of choosing the way that's best for you if you were born in a multicultural setting.

Some very troubling and painful things happen in this book. Some of them are the kinds of things that could tear apart a whole community. You would think you're reading a fun story, but like I said, this is about very real, very serious things. But the presentation! The presentation is amazing for several reasons. First of all, everything is presented in a very discreet way – even the very personal things the women confess or feel are put so very discreetly and without judgement that it evokes respect in a natural way. Secondly, there is no judging tone – just the facts. You get to make your own observations and draw conclusions. That is a very good way to drive discussion and tell a story – you are way more invested when reading a book like that. This is one of the reasons I enjoyed Erotic Stories for Punjabi Widows the most.

This is for all those foreigners like me reading a book on Punjabi culture. The cultural commentary was amazing! Obviously, I can only speak from a reader's point of view and only a Punjabi person could tell you how accurate it was – but it seems to be genuine, especially because of the author's roots. But as someone who previously had zero knowledge about the Punjabi Sikh communities, I was blown away by the cultural details. I was taught so many small, but meaningful things I could have never learned, had I not read this book. It's worth reading for that alone, if not for the tough issues it delves into!

If I've painted the book in colors too dark, please forgive me – I just wanted you to have a good understanding of what this book actually is about. But there is a reason it's called a 'dark comedy' sometimes – even though those #feels might make you weep while reading this, you will also laugh a lot. It is written in an easy style, and it has a lot of whimsical things, especially regarding the stories! It's not all a heavy read. I promise you will laugh!

But Beware Of The Triggers

In a story like this, obviously there are triggers. Lots of them. Violent murder, threats, social oppression, oppression of women. I am pretty sure rape is mentioned a couple of times, as is religious prosecution. And of course, there are all the erotic stories with all the... yeah. It would be hard to name everything, so just keep in mind that this is heavy topic material at times.
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38 people found this helpful
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Reviewed in the United States on July 6, 2018
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Sudakshina B
4.0 out of 5 stars There's more to this book than meets the eye!
Reviewed in the United Kingdom on August 18, 2018
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4.0 out of 5 stars Novel set in SOUTHALL, LONDON
Reviewed in the United Kingdom on December 13, 2019
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S. Hunt
5.0 out of 5 stars An absolutely awesome book!
Reviewed in the United Kingdom on April 26, 2018
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mehrin zakaria
5.0 out of 5 stars read my full review on mehrinreads.com
Reviewed in the United Kingdom on January 5, 2021
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4.0 out of 5 stars A very good read
Reviewed in the United Kingdom on October 13, 2018
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