Published by Disney-Hyperion on 2009-03-17
Genres: Asia, Historical, People & Places, Social Issues, Young Adult
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Pretty as a peacock, twelve-year-old Leela had been spoiled all her life. She doesn't care for school and barely marks the growing unrest between the British colonists and her own countrymen. Why should she? Her future has been planned since her engagement at two and marriage at nine.
Leela's whole life changes, though, when her husband dies. She's now expected to behave like a proper widow: shaving her head and trading her jewel-toned saris for rough, earth-colored ones. Leela is considered unlucky now, and will have to stay confined to her house for a year—keep corner—in preparation for a life of mourning for a boy she barely knew.
When her schoolteacher hears of her fate, she offers Leela lessons at home. For the first time, despite her confinement, Leela opens her eyes to the changing world around her. India is suffering from a severe drought, and farmers are unable to pay taxes to the British. She learns about a new leader of the people, a man named Gandhi, who starts a political movement and practices satyagraha—non-violent protest against the colonists as well as the caste system. The quiet strength of satyagraha may liberate her country. Could she use the same path to liberate herself?
Set in Ghandi Era India, Keeping Corner by Kashmira Sheth is the story of a child-bride named Leela who is widowed at the age of 11. Tradition states that since Leela is a certain caste, she must keep corner for a year. Unfortunately, Keeping Corner involves not leaving the house, shaving your head, and giving up pretty saris for a mourning outfit.
Tradition meets change as Leela learns about Ghandi. I felt I learned a lot from Keeping Corner by Kashmira Sheth. Peppered throughout the book are Indian words, the meaning of which I learned by using contextual clues. Oddly enough, I generally enjoy learning. Aside from learning new things about India, the best thing about this book is that it is a quick read.
As a main character, Leela was alright and her story was interesting. I just felt like I was beaten over the head with “educational value.” To me, this took away from my being able to empathize with Leela. I felt her changes weren’t gradual and they didn’t really ring true in my cynical adult brain.
I think I would have enjoyed Keeping Corner by Kashmira Sheth more if I was younger, it was a little too juvenile for me. Keeping Corner would be perfect for middle-grade YA fans. I could see the simplicity of the writing working well with reluctant readers, plus you can trick them into learning something.
Other reviews of Keeping Corner by Kashmira Sheth:
Helen’s Book Blog – “But after page 60 we just get the Indian and it begins to flow.”
Mrs. Q Book Addict – “My heart broke for Leela”