This is a very quick and generalised review as I read the book a year ago and never got around to reviewing it at the time. While a lot of the detail has filtered out, the key aspects of the book have resonated with me, and I have been recently requested for some views on it so forgive any errors or skewed details. (It contains no spoilers!) –
I had mixed feelings about The Normal State of Mind when I started it, but by the end of it, I was definitely glad to have read it. While it depicts stereotypes I, as a South Asian writer would like to see buried, it also explores some very crucial themes. Themes of gay rights and women’s roles, especially in India during the 1990s are something less heard of and written about and I felt that for bringing such topics to light, The Normal State of Mind deserves more credit. While it explores tropes stereotypically associated with South Asian writing; marriage, abusive brothers, submissive women and mothers, overly rich descriptions of food, clothes and cities, rounding off with a predictable ending, I still enjoyed the book. I still felt that there was something necessary about depicting lesbians trying to fight for their identity in a society that constantly tells them who to be. Even Dipali’s story is uplifting and different; widowed women are more often than not told that their lives are over and struggle to move forward and find a new partner in South Asian communities. The Normal State of Mind also stood out to me as it was published by Parthian Books, a Welsh publisher, whom I follow. With the current conversations and need for diversity in literature, more than ever, Wales can seem lagging behind and I felt that this book was a necessary addition. Besides, no one ever criticises men for repeatedly writing about booze, drugs and tobacco, or for romance writers for constantly writing about just that. The risk with dismissing something completely because it explores stereotypes is that you risk dismissing and overlooking whole conversations and cultures. Therefore to me, The Normal State of Mind is a necessary addition to diversity and depictions of queer poc experiences in literature.