Under the Lemon Trees by Bhira Backhaus

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A beautifully written debut novel of a young Indian woman struggling between embracing her heritage and fitting in as an American

In Oak Grove, California, 1976, there are as many Sikh temples as Christian churches, the city council has prints announcements in both English and Punjabi and the large Indian immigrant community is gracefully coexists with the old farming families. But for 15-year-old Jeeto, figuring out where she fits best—and what she must do to find that fit—isn’t so easy.

Jeeto soon realizes that the women around her do far more than drink tea on balmy California afternoons—their traditions and religion give shape to fortune and destiny in a world of arranged marriages and strict family politics that force Jeeto to struggle with reconciling the possibilities of freedom and love.

In the tradition of Jhumpa Lahiri and Arundhati Roy, Under the Lemon Trees is poised to speak to this same audience in an historically successful market. A stellar debut from an acclaimed writer, this is a story about finding love and discovering a true home while navigating traditions, family and faith—part Bend it Like Beckham, part Monsoon Wedding, this is a cultural and romantic tour de force.


About Bhira Backhaus

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BHIRA BACKHAUS lives in Phoenix, but was born and raised in California's Central Valley where her parents emigrated from India. She received her MFA from Arizona State University and won the Martindale prize for fiction. Her work has appeared in Best New American Voices 2005.
Published March 17, 2009 by Thomas Dunne Books. 354 pages
Genres: Literature & Fiction. Fiction

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Kirkus Reviews

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As a first-person narrator, Jeeto functions largely as an observer of Oak Grove’s Sikh community—non-Indians, goras, figure only peripherally in Jeeto’s world—and its sometimes inscrutable mores.

Mar 01 2009 | Read Full Review of Under the Lemon Trees

Publishers Weekly

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Backhaus’s debut novel explores love, loss and the tangled web of family in the matriarchal Oak Grove, Calif., Sikh community of 1976.

Nov 10 2008 | Read Full Review of Under the Lemon Trees

Live Journal

While the early California contexts are often routed through Filipino American or Japanese American migrant labor, Backhaus’s novel remains a wonderful fictional depiction of another community that took part in the construction and early diversification of the California agricultural community.

Apr 11 2009 | Read Full Review of Under the Lemon Trees

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