As first posted on feministbookclub.com
Operation Mom: My Plan to Get My Mom a Life… and a Man by Reenita M. Hora took me by surprise. As I read the synopsis, I thought it was going to be a zany adventure where the reader watches Ila’s mother go on a series of dates to distract her from impeding on Ila’s “stalking” habit.
*sidebar* I place stalking in quotations because while it is referred to as stalking in the book, the actions that Ila takes are really the consequences of unfettered access to the lives of celebrities and fans’ entitlement to that access. When we refer to stalking in ways like this, it minimizes the action when people feel unsafe.
Ila is looking for a way to escape her mother’s overbearing judgment of her aspirational relationship with the pop idol Ali Zafar. She and her best friend, Deepali, along with Deepali’s boyfriend (well, one of the three) Dev concoct a plan to set up a fake profile for her mom. Because with mom’s attention turned toward a man, both of them are able to get a life. And maybe Ila will find her own distraction from her fantasy relationship.
The cast of characters is really interesting in this book. Ila seems like an old soul trapped in a 17-year-old’s body but also has a level of innocent immaturity. Deepali on the surface seems vapid, but she’s actually very smart and cares deeply for her friends (and boyfriends). Veena, Ila’s mom, has that stereotype of the overbearing Indian mother, but she is a fiercely independent woman setting a great example for her daughter. There are many strong women present in the story.
Even the side characters add color to the story. Even though there were a lot of frogs caught in their catfishing trap with varying levels of cringe, they added humor and humorous situations.
I really appreciate that this story is unapologetically Indian. It is set in Mumbai, and we really get a feel for the culture. Sometimes, when I read books about cultures different from mine, I can tell the difference between intentions. Some authors want to over-explain things so readers don’t feel isolated and instead feel like they can relate. Then there are authors that are writing for a specific audience and iykyk. These books are so important because we have been conditioned to feel as if the white experience is the default and universal experience. Oftentimes, that leaves People of Color feeling isolated and lacking representation.
There is a plethora of books available for white people to see themselves in. We need to protect the books that center different experiences.
That being said, I didn’t mind that there were references I didn’t know. I learned so much about Indian culture. I learned about languages, religions, ethnic groups, and so much more. This book was just so full of rich culture, but (because of globalization) it was still full of American/British references.
Overall, this book was super cute. I would recommend it to anyone looking for an easy, entertaining read to learn more about Indian culture. I was drawn to the book because I felt like I could recreate Operation Mom with my own mother, but instead, I am ready to recreate it for myself!