The library doesn’t know I have this book. They should do – I didn’t sneak out with it or anything – but somehow it’s not on my list of checked-out books. As such, I haven’t felt any sense of urgency about reading it, so it’s been sitting patiently on the floor of my bedroom for quite some time now, waiting for me to get to it. And I thought today was a good day for it – I read it on the drive to and from my uncle and aunt’s house today for my first! crawfish boil! of the season! (I know, right? How have I held out this long without crawfish?) The crawfish was tasty, and I helped my other uncle by showing him how to eat them. I felt very authoritative.
Gifted is about a wee Indian girl called Rumi who is extremely good at math(s). She lives in Cardiff with her family, and her father is pushing her very hard to get through her exams so that she can go to Oxford when she is still very young. His drive to get her to do her best consumes her whole life, and his too: he isolates the whole family from any possible friends, so that Rumi can focus on her math(s) work. As she grows older, Rumi struggles to find pockets of normalcy for herself to inhabit, within the rigid structure of learning that her father has created for her.
Although it wasn’t the main focus of the book, I find stories about immigrant families trying to hold their children to the values of their homes incredibly tragic. This conflict is more central to A Map of Home, a quite dissimilar book I read earlier this year, but it does come into play in Gifted as well. Gifted makes Rumi’s parents sympathetic, but not (to me) sympathetic enough. That is, we learn enough about them at the start to feel how difficult their lives are; and as the book goes on, it isn’t enough to let us really understand why they are treating their daughter this way. To me, and this may have been because I saw them increasingly through Rumi’s eyes, they degenerated into stereotypes towards the end of the book.
Rumi’s plight is depicted so clearly. My little sister is taking a class in adolescent literature, and has expressed some displeasure with the way people in her class overshare about their own lives and say things like “I hurt for her here” when they are talking about the protagonists in the books they are reading. So I won’t say I hurt for Rumi when I was reading the book, even though I did. Poor baby, she is so isolated, and any attempt to discuss her unhappiness with her parents is met with strident accusations of ingratitude.
I’m off to go read something uplifting about murderers – report on The Meaning of Night is coming.