Pride, Prejudice and Other Flavors

         In the 300-room Sagar Mahal, or the Ocean Palace built by her great times four grandfather on the Arabian Sea, 13-year-old Trisha Raje is coached by her father not to be overwhelmed by the sorrow she saw at a school of the blind that day but instead find a solution so she doesn’t feel badly. And so, she does. Before long Trisha had created a global charity that performed eye surgeries on the needy and then became San Francisco’s premiere neurosurgeon, a woman with immense skill but so lacking in social graces that many in her family are not talking to her as she once inadvertently jeopardized her older brother’s fast track political career.

         But that isn’t Trisha’s only difficulty in Sonali Dev’s newest book, Pride, Prejudice and Other Flavors (William Morrow 2019; $15.99), a Bollywood take on Jane Austen’s classic Pride and Prejudice. Dev switches up roles between Trisha and DJ Caine, a rising star chef whose cancer-stricken sister is a patient of Trisha’s. She a descendant of Indian Royalty is Mr. Darcy and Caine, a Rwandan/Anglo-Indian—meaning he belongs to a much lower social class, is Emma.

To paraphrase Jane Austen, Dev writes “It is a truth universally acknowledged that only in an overachieving Indian American family can a genius daughter be considered a black sheep” and the book is classic Austen with its subtle ironic humor and the structured setting required in any well-to-do aristocratic English or Indian milieu. Trisha has broken the three ironclad rules of their family: Never trust an outsider, never do anything to jeopardize your brother’s political aspirations and never, ever, defy your family. Desperate to redeem herself in ways that her brilliancy and scoring a $10 million dollar grant for her medical department—their largest ever—is unable to do, Trisha must cope with falling in love with Caine, saving his sister and ensuring that she will not somehow disgrace her family again.

         Dev, who is married with two teenagers and lives in Naperville, says is Mr. Darcy/Trisha and that’s she’s been entranced with Jane Austen’s book since watching the Indian TV adaptation of “Pride and Prejudice” called “Trishna” in the 1980s when she was a middle schooler,

 “I went straight to the library and checked out Pride and Prejudice and read it over and over,” she says.

As for writing, Dev says she wrote before she could even read, making up stories and characters,” she says, noting she wrote and acted in her first play when she was eight. “Writing has always been with me.”

She grew up in Mumbai though the family traveled a lot as her father was in the military.

“I was always the new kid on the block with a book,” she says.

She continues to read and write at an amazing speed.

“I am in fact waiting to get the edits back for my new book,” she says, noting that writing is an escape, a way of putting yourself in the shoes of someone not like you.

What: Sonali Dev Book Launch Party

When: Monday, May 6 at 7 p.m.

Where: Andersons Bookshop, 123 W Jefferson Ave, Naperville, IL

FYI: The event is free and open to the public. To join the signing line, please purchase the author’s latest book, Pride Prejudice and Other Flavors, from Anderson’s Bookshop. To purchase contact Anderson’s Bookshop Naperville, 630-355-2665; andersonsbookshop.com

The Border: A Novel (Power of the Dog)

          “I’ve long and often said that the ‘Mexican Drug Problem’ is really the American drug problem,” says Don Winslow who recently completed The Border, the third book in his Cartel Trilogy.

          While Winslow is writing fiction, his New York Times bestselling books are all too real.

          “We’re the consumers and the ones funding the cartels and fueling this violence because of our demand for drugs,” says Winslow. “And then we have the nerve to point to Mexico and talk about Mexico corruption. What about our corruption?  If there’s anyone who should be building a wall, it’s Mexico to protect themselves from our demand.”

          Winslow’s fast action paced books, written in a style he describes as “close third person,” are good reads on several levels, including the enjoyment of a well-researched thriller about Drug Enforcement Agency undercover operative Art Keller and his long struggle in a harrowing world amidst Mexican cartel power struggles, traffickers, drug mules, teenage hitmen, families seeking asylum to escape the drug wars, narcos, cops and political corruption on both sides of the border as well as attorneys and journalists.

          The other level is the indictment of what he views as a failed policy by the U.S. to stem the tide of drugs.

“We’ve had a War on Drugs for almost 50 years and last year more people died of drug overdoses than ever before,” says Winslow. “We’ve already had this lab experiment and it was called Prohibition. As long as you have people wanting drugs, you’ll have people selling drugs. The way to end the violence and crime that goes along with drug use is to legalize drugs and treat them as the social health problem they are.”

Whether you agree with Winslow, whose books have been acquired by FX Networks for television, his writing is compelling as he takes us into a world he has inhabited since his first book, The Power of the Dog, was published. He intended to end the series with The Cartel, his second book about Keller, which he sold to Fox for a seven-figure amount.

“I swore that was my last book—I was done,” he says. “But the difficulty was that the story wasn’t. The violence in Mexico is increasing, the heroin epidemic in the U.S. is killing more people and the immigration issue—there was more to discuss. Like in my first two books, I had more to say through the medium of crime fiction.”

Winslow says the escalating violence in Mexico is amazing. In 1998, the big news was the murder of 19 people in a Mexican village that was drug related.

“By the time I was working on The Cartel, that kind of incident wouldn’t even be in the papers, it’s such a low body count,” says Winslow, noting that the difficulties in writing his earlier books was finding people involved in the drug trade who were willing to talk. “By the time I got done writing The Cartel, people who had been hiding their crimes were celebrating them.”

But Winslow says he’s seeing a definite groundswell of change.

“Cities are doing some really interesting and forward thinking about it,” he says. “We have a 2.2 million prison population behind bars and 20% of that is drugs; we have 181,000 in Federal prison and around 90,000 of those are drug related. We are the market for drugs. We’re 5% of the world’s population and we use 80% of the opioids. We need to be doing something different.”

Though he says he’s done with the Cartel Trilogy, Winslow acknowledges it was weird when he sent off his final manuscript.

“That was 20 years of my life, a total of one-third of my life,” he says.

Visit Don Winslow.com

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