{Story Diary} Arzu by Riva Razdan | A Coming-of-Age Story of Independence and Self-Discovery Set in 1990s India and NYC

Aug 9, 2021

arzu riva razdan


Arzu is a hidden gem released earlier this year that I really enjoyed and believe deserves more love. It takes place in 1990s India and NYC and centers an Indian newspaper mogul heiress who sets out to make a name for herself in a male-dominated industry. It's about self-discovery, pursuing passions, friendships, independence and liberation in various forms, growth and love.


Arzu by Riva Razdan
Contemporary Fiction
January 25, 2021 from Hachette India


'It became the summer that Arzu gained and lost everything that girlhood had set her up for.'

It is 1991, and India's economy is opening up to foreign investment for the very first time. For wealthy business families across the country, however, it is a move fraught with uncertainty. In Bombay, Arzu, the pampered daughter of a newspaper mogul, finds the situation particularly tense. Her one concern is to score a proposal from her millionaire boyfriend before the country's celebrated liberalization sours his mood any further.

Then, an innocent gesture on her part causes all her plans to go awry, and Arzu escapes to New York City with her snobby aunt Parul on the pretext of attending finishing school. While Parul Bua's one-point agenda is to fix her up with a suitable match, Arzu, reveling in the heady independence that New York offers, finds herself poised on the brink of an idea that could change the nature of an entire industry back home.

Now, even as Arzu negotiates catty debutante ball drama and evades the charms of her father's smug protégé, she must prove her worth to investors so as to silence her critics. The question remains, can someone who has always played second fiddle to the men in her life discover how to become the heroine of her own story?



Setting / Places


Mumbai (formerly Bombay), India


[Image Source]


New York City, NY, U.S.


[Image Source]



Reasons to Read Arzu


arzu riva razdan aesthetic

✎ The MCs name and its meaning. Arzu is an Urdu name meaning "hope" and "love." I love the meaning of the MC's name and how perfect of a fit it is to the character and her story. Which brings me to the next point:

✎ Indian heroines from India front and center of the narrative, written by Mumbai-based author herself, Riva Razdan, granddaughter of Indian film maker Devendra Goel. Riva is also a screenwriter for Anil Kapoor Films. Storytelling is in the family blood. How cool is that!?

✎ The story takes place in 1990s India and NYC -- the year 1991 to be exact. It sheds light to India's economic liberalization at the time and how the rich get richer which affects the class differences and overall economy going on in India to this day. There was nuanced discussions from an Indian's perspective, which is incredibly important.

✎ Arzu is an heiress, a daughter of a newspaper mogul in India who goes to the States in New York after an innocent mishap and breakup in pursuit of making a name for herself as a journalist as she navigates living in a new country, self-discovery, healing, new friendships and love, asserting her independence, following her dreams and trying to succeed in a male-dominated business. It's also worth mentioning the way she led her aunt to believe she was coming with her to New York on the pretense to "find love" there but she secretly went to pursue journalism, paving her own way. And then also ends up finding love along the way. Boss move.

✎ It's part drama, part romantic tale with a splash of political intrigue. OwnVoices readers say it has Bollywood vibes. To me, it's also sort of Crazy Rich Asians-esque as well, but with South Asians in South Asia and it's about damn time. I mean, Riva is a screenwriter for an Indian film company and was raised by a family of storytellers afterall, so it makes sense. It's a heart-warming, bold, witty, ambitious, funny, romantic, deep, light and thought-provoking story.

✎ The theme of liberalization is used in various contexts from India's economic liberalization to Arzu's personal liberalization of breaking free from the shackles in the patriarchal society she lived in to live her own life by her own rules. It has big fight the patriarchy energy and we are so here for it.

✎ As Arzu works her behind off to make a name for herself in a tough business she's passionate about without the help of her newspaper mogul father and finding self-discovery and independence, she goes through character growth throughout the novel. Y'all know we stan growth in this kingdom. She knows her self-worth and goes after what she wants.

✎ The climax had complexities to it (or it did to me imo), but it was interesting to say the least and probably another one of the best aspects of the story.

✎ The writing. I don't know how to explain it but Riva Razdan's storytelling was fresh, flamboyant and bold at the same time that is not only wonderfully written, but also the perfect way to tell Arzu's story.


Tropes / Themes


☾ Coming of age
☾ Self-discovery
☾ Political intrigue
☾ Family dynamic
☾ Female empowerment
☾ Romance
☾ Character growth
☾ Friendships
☾ Fight the patriarchy
☾ Intersectional feminism

Rep


☀ Indian MC + characters
☀ Indian American characters
☀ Indian author

Content / Trigger Warnings


➤ Misogyny/sexism


arzu riva razdan aesthetic







Riva Razdan is an author based in Mumbai. She is also a screenwriter for Anil Kapoor Films and Saffron Films. As a writer, she is determined to create romantic-feminist fiction that encourages, supports and comforts young Indian women. Her work has been featured in The Hindu Business Line, Grazia India and The Telegraph. Her debut novel, Arzu, was published by Hachette India in February 2021. Her new novel, The Naani Diaries, is represented by A Suitable Agency.











🌱 Have you read Arzu? If you've read it, what did you think of it? If not, does it sound like something you'd be interested in?

🌱 How do you feel about books set in the 1990s (I feel old lol)?



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Wikathon 2021: Filipino Boogaloo Tentative TBR

Aug 2, 2021

wikathon 2 filipino boogaloo 2021 tbr


Hello, friends! It's August which means it is Buwan ng Wika, the month of languages, in the Philippines! This also means that Wikathon is back! If you remember around this time last year, Wikathon was a month-long readathon all throughout August which celebrated Filipino authors and the 120+ languages in the Philippines, hosted by Filipino book enthusiasts Gerald, Kate, Alex, Kat and Julienne.

This year, Wikathon is back with whole new prompts and even recommendations, hosted by Kate @ Your Tita Kate. The readathon starts from August 1 to August 31. There is also a Discord server that participants can join for reading sprints, giveaways and more.

I cannot wait to see what everyone reads for this years wikathon! I'm a huge mood reader and don't tend to stick to tbrs well, so for some prompts I included more than one book bc yours truly is a Libra rising who cannot decide on anything to save her life lol. Come celebrate Filipino authors and stories all month long (and year-round) with us!


The Prompts


[Image by Kate @ Your Tita Kate]


My TBR


Bagong Salta


Read a book by a Filipino author you've never read before.

Brown Boy Nowhere by Sheeryl Lim


This actually released yesterday (right in time for the wikathon!) and is a featured title on We Need Diverse Books, and I am so excited to read it!

The story follows a 16-year-old Filipino American who's been uprooted from his San Diego, California home to a rural town seemingly in the middle of nowhere. Angelo leaves behind his girlfriend and the biggest skateboarding competition in the west coast, as he navigates life in an all-white town and school, being bullied and called a "brown boy" by schoolmates, thus becoming an outcast. However, he discovers he's not alone. He finds solace in a group of misfits whom are outcasts as well and in that group he finds a found family of sorts.

It seems like this would resonate with me, as a Filipino American who, too, had been uprooted from a diverse metropolitan area (the Bay Area in CA) to a mostly-white town up north and had been bullied for my slanted eyes, brown skin and was called a "greasy haired monkey" too many times than I'd like to remember. Something us Filipino diaspora can relate to and I hope this story has an uplifting message that will resonate in Filipino kids and teens.


Desentralisasyon


Read a book by a Filipino who is not Tagalog. (i.e. Bisaya [Cebuanos represent!], Ilocano, Kampampangan, Waray, Pangasinan, Hiligaynon, etc.)


Igorotdo: The Enlightened Warrior Within by Rexcrisanto Delson


Igorotdo is a fiction novel written by Igorot (Indigenous Filipino) author about Indigenous Igorot roots and peoples. It's apparently the first fiction novel written by an Igorot person.

It follows Alex who had immigrated to the U.S. as a child with his family, but assimilation into American society has led to a disconnect from his Igorot ancestry. Like many immigrants/diaspora, his true ethnic identity took a backseat due to moving from home and assimilation. Alex grew up to achieve the "American Dream" of running a successful business, owning a house, living the lavish lifestyle and such. But despite achieving it all, he felt a void that ate away at him until an event sent him on a collision course with his heritage. He encounters Igorot peoples, reconnecting with his lineage, bringing about new meaning for him, and discovers an enlightened warrior within himself.

Having grown up learning of Indigenous Filipinos, including the Igorots, from my lola and titas who taught me and my cousins to never forget about, not only our Filipino heritage but also the native Filipinos in the Philippines, I'm excited to read more about them. A cousin of mine in the Philippines sent me a copy a few years ago and it's time to finally read it.


The Ikessar Falcon by K.S. Villoso


I know, I know. Some of you will come for me for not having read the sequel to The Wolf of Oren-Yaro yet, but I will get to it! Even if the bitch queen Talyien herself holds a kampilan to my throat.

The conclusion to the series, The Dragon of Jin-Seyeng, released this year and Talyien would probably step on me slay me. And it would be very well deserved.

Copies of both The Ikessar Falcon and Dragon of Jin-Seyeng have been sitting in my Kobo e-reader waiting to be read, so this month is the month.



Baylan


Read a book by a Filipino author featuring the supernatural.


  

The Bolo Warrior by A.A. Lee


The sequel in the Bakunawa Rising series that's all about pre-colonial Filipino mythology of the moon eating serpent, the Bakunawa, and a village chief's daughter who led a rebellion against the gods to save the earth and is on a mission to usurp the moon goddess Bulan's powers to rescue her mom and defeat the Bakunawa. I'm excited to see how it all goes down! Hopefully it doesn't end on a cliffhanger because the third book isn't out yet, and very little is known about the third book or its release date.

Copper Mage by Dorothy Dreyer


Another sequel I need to get to - this being in the Empire of the Lotus series. Following the events of Crimson Mage, the soldiers of the shadow army are looming closer and the ancient diety has the Lotus empress under his control. It's up to the mages to put an end to Keshmeru's destruction. It'll be difficult to do as mages had been either locked up or their powers outlawed, so we shall see how the group of elite mages pulls it off.

Trese (vol. II): Unreported Murders by Budjette Tan, Kajo Baldisimo


Yes, yet another sequel (stop looking at me like that). The Trese komik series is a revered Filipino komik that now has an adaptation on Netflix of the same name (give us more episodes/seasons, Netflix!), and it's filled with mythological (or is it?) creatures from the stories and nightmares of our childhoods. If you like scary, if you like mythological creatures, if you like murder mysteries, this is for you.

Other prompts this fits under: Kayod


My recs: The Quiet is Loud by Samantha Garner (my new favorite!), Sugar and Spite by Gail D. Villanueva, Wicked As You Wish by Rin Chupeco (my all-time favorite!), Enlightenment by Reno Ursal, Tablay by Katrina F. Olan, Wounded Little Gods by Eliza Victoria, Dwellers by Eliza Victoria, Alternative Alamat: Stories Inspired By Philippine Mythology edited by Paolo Chikiamco, Wander This World by G.L. Tomas


Tadhana


Read a romance novel by a Filipino author where both the main character and love interest(s) are Filipino.


  

The Tropetastic Kindness Bundle, edited by Angel C. Aquino, Ana Tejano, Angeli E. Dumatol, Bianca Mori, C.P. Santi, Carla de Guzman, Mina V. Esguerra, Celestine Trinidad, Chris Mariano, Dawn Lanuza, Georgette S. Gonazales, Ines Bautista-Yao, Jay E. Tria, Katt Bariones, Suzette de Borja


This anthology is filled with our favorite romance tropes set in Philippines, all written by Filipino romance authors. The authors of this anthology wrote it for a cause, all proceeds going to charity, and made it available for a limited amount of time back in April, and I am so excited to finally get to reading it.

If the Dress Fits (2021 Edition) by Carla de Guzman


This is the 2nd edition of de Guzman's If the Dress Fits that released earlier this year (the author is even on the book cover! How cool is that!?). It follows Martha an accountant and proud owner of a cute puppy with a knack for fashion and a glorious wardrobe to show for it. She's a dress size 24 who owns her outfits with finesse and style. Her cousin announces her engagement which means the whole family will be at the upcoming wedding. Martha has it all. Except a boyfriend. Luckily she has the goofy and dependable Max to be her fake boyfriend for the festivities. But what happens when it doesn't feel so fake anymore?

The Kitchen When It Sizzles by Chrissie Peria


Olivia seems to have it all: good looks, a nice condo, a job that pays well, even men lining up to date her... except she doesn't have the ability to cook. Enter Nate, a hotshot chef who fills in to be Olivia's cooking instructor and soon they're heating up the kitchen in more ways than just cooking. Can they withstand the heat, or will they have to get out of the kitchen when the sizzle fizzles out?


My recs: Sweet On You by Carla de Guzman, many of the books listed on #RomanceClass website


Ilustrado


Read a book by a Filipino author featuring academics focus or academia setting.


Ang Larong Nagwakas Sa Atin by Fe Esperanza Tempe


I don't know if Ang Larong Nagwakas Sa Atin counts for this prompt but it does take place at an academy with a heavy focus on chess tournaments where the winner of the final game earns a scholarship and gets appointed the class chess player of the year. There's also a minor focus on the school newspaper and one of the main characters is an honor student.

It's written in Filipino, the title translating to "The Game That Ends With Us" as the final chess game depends on the four years of friendship between main characters Dennis and Esther.

I'm not into chess sadly, but this story tells of how Dennis and Esther's friendship formed and blossomed, and I am so here for that as well as the characters passions.


My recs: Delight by Moras Dela Paz, Misunderstanding Mr. Popular by Dane Luna, Interim Goddess of Love by Mina V. Esguerra


Katipunan


Read a book by a Filipino author featuring a secret society.


The Bronzed Beasts by Roshani Chokshi


The third and final installment in the Gilded Wolves trilogy, which releases on September 21. I might not have liked the Silvered Serpents as much as I did the first book, The Gilded Wolves, but I'm excited to get back into this world and see how it all ends.

I received an e-arc just a few days ago and I'm both excited and a bit nervous to get into it.





When Night Breaks by Janella Angeles

Spoilers for Where Dreams Descend!!!

The conclusion in the Kingdom of Cards duology is going to be wild, following the events of Where Dreams Descend that left us on a CLIFFHANGER!!! Following the events of that ending, the big magic competition had come to a disastrous end leaving Kallia in the hands of a dangerous magician and Demarco falling from grace. What the hell are this group of magicians supposed to do now!?

Just remembering that ending again kills me, I have to pick up the WNB e-arc asap.

Does this book count under this particular prompt? Idk it's a grey area, but I'm reading it this month come hell or high water.


My recs: The Atlas Six by Olivie Blake, The Quiet is Loud by Samantha Garner

Balangiga


Read a book by a Filipino author featuring imperialism.


High Society by Paolo Chikiamco, Hannah Buena


High Society is a standalone steampunk Filipino Komik in the Wooden War series that takes place in an alternative history set in 1764 Manila, Philippines with magic, automata and clockwork machines abound. With the Spaniard forces and the British invading, Filipinos has an ally/secret weapon to help them succeed against the enemy forces.

This will be a reread. Rereads totally count.
 




When the Elephants Dance by Tess Uriza Holthe


Historical fiction set around World War II era as U.S. and Japanese forces battle to possess the Philippines, the story follows a family as they hide with their neighbors in a cramped cellar where they tell each other stories and folktales. Stories of love, survival, folktales, family, history, centuries of Spanish colonization, catholic churches, and Filipino cultures were shared with each other.

The story also tells a tale of three brave Filipino teenagers and guerilla fighters as they battle against Japanese forces above ground. It was inspired by the authors fathers firsthand accounts in that period.

CW/TW: war themes, imperialism, colonization, violence


Kayod


Read a book by a Filipino author with an emphasis on the main characters careers, livelihoods, trade, etc.

Eating Fire and Drinking Water by Arlene J. Chai


The main character Clara Parez was an orphan who was raised by nuns and is now a reporter on the small island. Working at the daily paper, she grows tired of menial tasks and when a tiny street erupts in flames after a demonstration that left an unarmed man killed by a soldier, Clara seizes the opportunity to investigate and cover the story.

During the investigation, Clara discovers another tragedy that is personal to her involving her unknown past, including family secrets. Clara's missing history unfolds the more she searches for the truth about her mysterious past. It sounds so intriguing.


My recs: Soul Makers by J. Guibone, Arsenic and Adobo by Mia P. Manansala, The Doctor is in Love anthology by RomanceClass authors, Swept Off My Feet by Ines Bautista-Yao


Tula


Read a book by a Filipino author in verse or poetry.

I Must Belong Somewhere: Poetry and Prose by Dawn Lanuza


Dawn Lanuza's third poetry collection which released earlier this year explores longing, loneliness, home, bullying and mental illness. It also touches on themes such as body image, sexism and even death, addressing topics that are not talked about enough. It's such a good harrowing and powerful collection, which is why I'll be rereading it for this wikathon.


CW/TW: death, bullying, misogyny/sexism, suicide, self-harm, injury




So Says the Heart by Kess Costales


A poetry collection by queer Filipino-Canadian explores love and loss in many forms. This is another reread and honestly timely, so it's going on this wikathon's tbr.










My rec: We Belong by Cookie Hiponia Everman (bring tissues - it'll make you cry), Please Pick Me by Reina Regina, When the Rainbow Goddess Wept by Cecilia Manguerra Brainard, To Love as Aswang by Barbara Jane Reyes, Diwata by Barbara Jane Reyes,  Pillow Talk by Alyssa Cataluna




And there you have it! My tentative TBR for Wikathon 2!
What are you planning to read during wikathon?



In addition to supporting Filipino authors and creators, be sure to also support Filipinos in Philippines by helping them to #junkterrorlaw and uphold human rights there with JUNK TERROR LAW NOW! and this carrd PARA SA PINAS!, end the Jeepney phaseouts for safer public transports with PARA SA PINAS!, save Lumad schools from attacks with PARA SA PINAS!, and donate to COVID relief efforts/Filipino farmers affected by the pandemic/typhoon reliefs with PARA SA PINAS!

Philippine halalans are coming up in 2022 and there are resources provided to help oust the Dueterte regime, which you can help here: PARA SA PINAS!

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