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Members Only by Sameer Pandya book review


Members Only by Sameer Pandya

Members Only by Sameer Pandya book review 

Members Only by Sameer Pandya, So this is a really interesting book that kind of took me by surprise. 

You are following this character named Raj Bhatt who was born in Bombay but then moved to the united states when he was a kid, like middle school aged or so. When the story begins, it's him as an adult. 

He is married to a white woman and they have two kids. They've just moved back to California, which is where the wife is from. 

And they have joined this sort of like local country club, tennis club. It's one that's like kind of exclusive in the sense that like they don't really let a whole lot of people in. 

And part of the reason why they were let in is that the wife was a member of this club when she was growing up.

And so the story starts off on a sunday. Raj is part of sort of like the tennis club committee of selecting who the new members are going to be. 

So the way the tennis club works is that current members can nominate a couple to potentially join the club. And then that couple it basically meets the committee and does like little interviews with them and stuff like that. 

And then the committee from there will choose which of those people will end up joining that year. And so, like i said, the story starts on one of these days when the committee is meeting with a bunch of these couples. 

It's at the country club and raj is narrating all of this and he's basically thinking to himself about how he is, you know, the only dark-skinned person a part of this committee, one of the only dark-skinned people part of this club in general, and how he would like to try to change that fact and try to diversify the club and stuff like that.

But it's not looking very good because most of the people who are part of the club are white and they are nominating other white couples. 

Until they meet this one couple who are two black doctors who are nominated by someone else at the club who is also a doctor. So they know each other from the hospital. During the interview process like raj really likes them. 

Partially just because of the fact that they'll finally be someone else who is a slightly darker-skinned um as part of this club and he feels like they'll have that sort of connection. 

But then everything kind of goes wrong when raj makes a comment that is not great towards this couple and things just kind of like spiral down from there. 

So you follow raj over the course of the week while that happens. And then he's also an anthropology professor and when he returns to class, he gives this lecture about orientalism and that sort of like history especially here in the united states and in the western world. 

And after he gives that lecture he's basically accused by a bunch of students of reverse racism. 

This book basically follows raj over the course of the week as he is dealing with all of that plus lots of other things. 

And i hadn't heard anyone talking about this book, i didn't know really anything about it besides the fact that it kind of deals with these situations. 

And this was one of those books where it peaked my interest because it seems to take on the concept of racism in a slightly more nuanced manner. 

But going into it i was also really hesitant because i was like this could also go really, really wrong. 

But this actually like really took me by surprise. There's a quote on the back of this book from 

jade chang which calls this like "enjoyable anxiety" which feels really accurate. Like the beginning scene where raj makes this really racially inappropriate comment like made me want to like crawl into a hole.

Like i had so much secondhand embarrassment. But at the same time it also felt like a very realistic thing that could happen. And this book is kind of like over the top. 

Like all of the situations in here are things that have happened in the world but to have all of them happen over the course of the week felt like a little bit much.

So there is sort of like this sort of heightened reality situation happening in here. The closest sort of analogy i can think of is like a tv show like the office where completely cringeworthy but it's also like funny and the uncomfortableness is part of it but it also like pokes at this very like specific part of office life and things like that. That's kind of how this book felt. 

There are a lot of really nuanced things that are taken up in here. Raj is in this sort of middle place where he is of indian descent and so he faces racism and microaggressions and things like that 

but also he recognizes the fact that black people have it significantly worse and that he can be biased and racist in that sense as well and sort of like the layers and nuances to racism that i think aren't talked about a lot of times in sort of like a wider context. 

And i think it is something that's happening a little bit more now but i think that if you are someone who's been reading a lot of books by people of color in general, there's sort of like this same conversation almost in terms of like race and racism in the united states that pop up again and again and again. 

And if you are kind of like okay, like i get it. Not that there's anything wrong with those comments or conversations or anything like that, like they need to happen because those things still exist, 

but if you're kind of hoping to go into a slightly more nuanced conversation about all that stuff, i think this might be a really good book to pick up because this book starts to tread into those conversations 

a little bit more, about the nuances of microaggressions and stuff like that and sort of the ways that people of color can feel othered so often even though it's not necessarily like done on purpose. 

And it also has like this really in interesting conversation about race and racism because raj is accused basically of being both a racist and performing reverse racism and sort of having those like sort of two conversations. 

This book doesn't go into all of the details of like sort of those conversations because again this book only takes place over the course of a week. 

But i think that this is sort of like a really great starting point. I found this book to be like really compelling because i just wanted to know how the situations were going to turn out because these are, again, situations that are really complicated and it really could have gone any way. 

You don't know if raj is going to lose his job or not. You don't know if the couple that he insulted is going to accept his apology or not, 

or whether or not he's actually going to apologize or not and how the tennis club is going to deal with the situation, whether or not he's going to get kicked out or not or anything. Like there's 

so many potential problems that could arise. Or the consequences of his actions have so many potential downfalls that all of them seem completely possible and i needed to keep reading to know what was going to happen to raj and his family. Raj is not necessarily a character that want to root for. 

It's really hard to explain because, again, i kept thinking a lot about the office because like the office is the only thing i can think of that really made me like kind of cringe in the same sort of way while still being like entertaining and enjoyable. 

And he's not quite as like terrible as like a michael scott type of character but he has a lot of those similar qualities where he just says really dumb things and really ridiculous things and chooses really ridiculous actions and he doesn't like think things through to like the fullest extent. 

But you can tell like he also has like relatively good intentions and things along those lines too. So he does have sort of like those michael scott qualities to him, which i think like really helped in this novel 

because you are kind of rooting for him but also you're like, well, you're kind of getting what you deserve at the same time. 

There are also conversations in here about sort of like class too because i think they're in southern california, if i remember correctly, 

but i'm actually not sure. And they live in kind of like a well-off neighborhood but they themselves are not like super well-off. 

Like one of the main reasons why raj was able to buy this house is because he's gotten help from his parents and stuff like that. 

And so there's like this tension as well between himself and everyone else in the neighborhood and other people in the tennis club because there is like a slight friction in terms of class standing and money and all of that stuff. 

There's also friction in terms of like his kids and the school that they go to and the trouble that they get into that reminded me a little bit of big little lies. 

Not in like the intensity and seriousness of big little lies but sort of the similar ideas of like the schools that you attend and the parents involvement and all of that sort of stuff and what's sort of expected in certain types of schools and stuff like that. 

Like all of that is kind of touched upon as well. So yeah, in the end this just like really surprised me because in like less deft hands this could be a complete like train crash. Like it could have gone really, really horribly 

but i think that the way Sameer Pandya sort of handles all of these topics is done with a lot of like heart and compassion and understanding of the nuances. I'm sure that he is pulling from some of his own experiences. 

He himself is like a professor at a university and stuff like that and i'm sure he's like dealt with many of these situations before whether directly or not. 

But he sort of like understands kind of like the complicated nature of the way race is handled here in the united states and it doesn't make it a very like black and white situation. 

Like there are complicated nuances to all of this and there are layers to all of this. And i think that he really understands sort of like the in-betweenedness of people who are don't fall into categories that are so neat. Yeah i don't know. 

Maybe also just being a person of indian descent i sort of like live in that in between space as well of not being white but not being black but being adjacent to both of them in different ways and the sort of like benefits and non-benefits that i can get from both of those situations and how like 

you feel some level of connection to both sides and all of that stuff. Like all of that is really, really complicated and worthy of more than just like this single book review. 

But i feel like this book really gets at some of those nuances that i never really see explored a whole lot in terms of like literature or even, you know, tv or movies or anything like that.

So yeah, i really, really enjoyed this book a lot but again maybe just has to do with my own experiences and stuff like that and kind of seeing some of those thoughts and conversations play out in a book was really interesting to me. 

So yeah, i gave this 4 out of 5 stars. I highly recommend it. It's one of those books that has like barely any ratings on goodreads and stuff like that and i definitely think it deserves a little bit more attention. 

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