Koyal Dark, Mango Sweet
Set in present-day India, Koyal Dark, Mango Sweet is saturated with Indian culture and tradition. The story centers around Jeeta, a sixteen-year-old student, and her family, who live in a cramped one bedroom apartment amidst the bustling city streets of Mumbai.
The reader is given a richly descriptive view of the family’s day to day life in Mumbai but as her mother arranges marriages for her two older sisters, Jeeta questions the traditional customs that her family embraces. She challenges her mother on several occasions over these conflicting beliefs and her mother responds by warning her that her sharp tongue will make it difficult to find her a husband...
In her last year of high school, Jeeta befriends a new student, Sarina. Their friendship opens Jeeta’s eyes to a less traditional way of life and encourages her to focus on her studies, with a view to going to university. Through her friendship with Sarina, Jeeta gets also gets to know Sarina’s cousin, Neel but they have to keep their relationship secret as Jeeta worries that her parents would not approve.
Koyal Dark, Mango Sweet is a coming-of-age story that stretches across cultural boundaries. Young adults will relate to the themes that dominate the story - youthful conviction, a yearning for independence and generational gaps. Jeeta is a very likeable character; her courage and fervor are endearing.
This is Kashmira Sheth’s second young adult story. Her first, Blue Jasmine, was based on her own immigrant experience and is a multiple awar- winner. Sheth grew up in Mumbai and used those memories to create the realistic storyline and setting for Koyal Dark, Mango Sweet. Her language is evocative, especially as Indian foods are discussed: indeed, throughout the story, she includes traditional Indian dishes and their significance to Jeeta and her family. She incorporates Indian words into the story as well, which are explained in a glossary at the end. In this novel, Sheth has created an earnest work that captures the familiar struggle to bridge modern culture with conservative tradition.
Mary Beth Cecchini