If the title of Erotic Stories For Punjabi Widows doesn’t catch your eye, I don’t know how to help you. Knowing nothing else about this book, I knew I had to read it. Somehow, the title raises a bunch of questions, but at the same time it does exactly what it says on the tin. Brilliant!

Erotic Stories For Punjabi Widows - Balli Kaur Jaswal - Keeping Up With The Penguins
Get Erotic Stories For Punjabi Widows here.
(No matter what kind of stories you purchase through these affiliate links, you’ll be supporting this page – thank you!)

If I had to sum up the thesis of Erotic Stories For Punjabi Widows, I’d say it’s: every woman has a hidden life, and every community has things they don’t talk about. Sometimes, those secrets collide.

Nikki is a twenty-something woman living in London, straddling the worlds of her immigrant parents and her modern contemporaries. She’s a bit directionless (as twenty-somethings tend to be), having dropped out of law school to ‘find her passion’. That search has taken her to a small apartment above a pub where she works a few nights each week, much to her family’s chagrin.

Nikki’s sister has chosen a different path: a respectable profession (nursing) and entering into the marriage market. She asks Nikki to post an ad on a Southall temple message board for young people seeking arranged marriages, and there Nikki finds an intriguing ad of her own. The Sikh Community Association is seeking a creative writing teacher to teach story writing to women – and Nikki, out of curiosity more than anything, takes the job.

But this is Erotic Stories For Punjabi Widows, so I’m sure you can guess that the storytelling workshop doesn’t work out exactly the way Nikki expects. The proper Sikh widows who attend the class are barely literate, and they’re expecting to learn the English alphabet and grammar, not narrative perspective and literary style. They soon discover, thanks to a gag gift they discover on Nikki’s desk, the world of erotic stories, and realise they’d have a lot more fun telling their own than learning their ABCs.

The erotic stories these Punjabi widows tell aren’t just wink-wink euphemistically sexy – they’re straight up spicy. It turns out these women are hiding a lot under their white dupattas. As the women delve deeper into their fantasies and the radical act of openly communicating their desires, Nikki grows concerned about the community’s reaction to her classes – specifically the Brotherhood, the young men who style themselves as the ‘moral police’.

The title of Erotic Stories For Punjabi Widows might mislead some readers (it misled me, I’m not too proud to admit it) into thinking this is purely a comedic novel, an older-women-behaving-badly romp with lots of literal lols. It’s definitely entertaining, but it’s also meaningful, and there’s a lot of depth to it if you’re reading it as a feminist text. It’s a book about how women experience and express desire in cultures that are policed by men. It’s about sexuality as a source of confidence, both in and out of the bedroom. And it’s about the power to determine one’s own life, and pursue one’s own happiness.

I particularly appreciated the diversity of the arranged marriages depicted in Erotic Stories For Punjabi Widows – both how they happen, and how they turn out. For a long time, the dominant Anglo narrative about arranged marriages was that they were universally awful (especially for women), and shackled two people together for life, site unseen, simply because their parents said so. Then, as far as I can see, there was a bit of an over-correction, and we had a run of stories about modern arranged marriages that worked perfectly because the couple fell in love for real. In Erotic Stories For Punjabi Widows, there are both very traditional arranged marriages and more contemporary and flexible arranged marriages, ones that work well and ones that don’t. More diversity in our perspective and understanding can only be a good thing, and this book definitely contributes to that.

Reese Witherspoon picked Erotic Stories For Punjabi Widows for her reading list in 2018, and it’s easy to see why. As she said, it’s “a mystery, a romance, a family drama… and yes it’s 🔥 🔥 🔥!” – total Reese catnip.

My favourite Amazon reviews of Erotic Stories For Punjabi Widows:

  • “too raunchy to be interesting” – M. Edwards
  • “just silly. misleading title to entice buying.” – KAVANJIT SINGH
  • “The book had romance and murder! Would recommend” – sam
  • “The so called “Erotic Stories” didn’t blow my skirt up.” – I Can Tell