When I was growing up, a good friend of mine did her year abroad in India. She sent me jewelry and Bollywood cassettes. I had no idea what they were saying, but I loved them. Went to a wedding a few years ago where the groom’s family was from India. Part of the evening’s fun was instruction in Bollywood dancing. Loved! During the pandemic, I got hooked on BollyX, a fitness regime done with Bollywood dancing. Needless to say, I’m a fan. So when I saw The Thing About Bollywood on Edelweiss+ I knew I had to read it.
The story is different in a variety of ways, but hone it down to its essence and it is about learning how to deal with your emotions. We see a great deal about Social Emotional Learning, and in this story, Sonali is struggling with her parent’s divorce, changes in friendships, and the general realities of being in middle school. Part of the problem is that Sonali’s father has taught her that it is not good to show feelings, not okay to let anyone know that not everything is going swimmingly. Squash it down instead. That works, right? Cue Elsa.
In the magical land of fiction, Sonali’s life becomes a Bollywood film. Everything is brighter and people break out into song and dance at the drop of a hat. Everyone has their own soundtrack and feelings are shared through song. Sonali is the only one who remembers life before Bollywood-itis and is desperately trying to get back. Much like Groundhog Day, she has to figure out her issues and deal with them before she can make things normal.
While the book isn’t perfect and took some time to get into, I do appreciate the fact that Sonali has to learn to face her emotions instead of running away from them. It is okay to show people that you are afraid of something or angry. It is good to talk to your friends and ask them for help when you are dealing with a difficult situation. Keeping everything hidden and only showing people your social media happy face will break you at some point. These things eat away at you like a cancer. Our friends are not mind-readers but they do usually want to help when they can.
It is great to see a book with South Asian culture and one that deals with divorce. I have a page of bibliotherapy books and there are so few in that category. But divorce is a real issue that our kids have to deal with. Sonali’s best friend Zara shines throughout the book, being a great voice of reason encouraging Sonali to be more open about what is going on. A very different story that many will enjoy.