Leela is a spoiled girl in India. Her family belongs to the highest caste, or social group, which means there are certain traditions she is expected to uphold. Leela was married at age nine, but she still lives with her birth family. She is preparing for the ceremony when she will go to live with her husband and his family, and looking forward to the clothes and parties in her future, but her young husband's sudden death makes her a widow. Leela must shave her head, wear brown, and stay in her house for a year of mourning. She must never marry again, and she is miserable to think her life is over when she is only twelve.
Political unrest in India brings a wave of new ideas about the roles of men and women, but Leela lives in a small town where change is viewed with suspicion. What kind of future exists for her?
Many readers will relate to the conflict between societal expectations and individual desires. The book provides a rich starting point for discussions about why traditions continue, even if they are harmful to some groups, and how difficult it can be to try to make changes. The book references Gandhi's ideas about nonviolent protest, and these are woven naturally into the context of the characters' perspectives.
" Being a widow means keeping corner for the rest of your life, and I can't let that happen."
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