Chapatti or Chips? by Nisha Minhas
When I was asked to pen a few hundred words about a chick-lit aka contemporary romantic title I realised that the writer that had really defined the genre for me on a personal level was Nisha Minhas. For some inexplicable reason she hasn’t published a new novel in at least four years, but her fiercely funny, sexy, romantic books really startled and captivated me because I’d never come across a British Asian writer like her before. In the noughties, she wasn’t writing sombre novels about the days of the Raj, colonial times or misty-eyed vistas of India, she was writing about young Asian women sneaking off to get their leg over with a strapping English hunk of a man, while trading witticisms and barbed insults. Her heroines were savvy, smart and sometimes conflicted but there wasn’t a demure, downcast head in sight. Minhas redefined the stereotype of young Asian women in British chick-lit. In fact she put them on the map. I never saw other writers such as Jane Green or Wendy Holden featuring them in their stories even though England is as we all know a racial melting pot. Minhas’s novels are not rocket science, the narratives are in fact actually quite formulaic. Rich, English jack the lad falls in love with spirited, beautiful Asian lass, there are romantic and cultural obstacles in the way, yet you know they’ll be overcome while fighting, bickering and kissing, then our duo will run off into the bawdy future together.
My personal favourite is probably the tongue in cheek titled Chapatti or Chips?. A little tale about Naina and Dave. The memory is sweet because it was my first and so refreshing to come across a feisty Asian character. At last I rejoiced! A story were an Asian girl gets to have a snog and a shag. He’s a commitment-phobe, she’s got an arranged marriage pending to a perfectly nice Indian boy and they can’t keep away from each other. You want to knock their heads together and you know there’ll be a happy ending but you still enjoy the ride. Minhas’s last offering Tall, Dark and Handsome, came in for a lot of criticism from her own readers, particularly for her apparently ill-judged swipes at Islam. I’ve not read it, so cannot judge, but it might potentially explain her radio silence as a writer. Whatever the reason behind the lack of output in the last few years, I’d be interested to see what plotlines are brewing away in that head of hers and to discover whether she’s capable of writing a new plotline rather than a modern day Carry On variation of an inter-racial romance. Minhas is clearly bright and able and has a wicked sense of humour and sometimes as in The Marriage Market, she is capable of tackling more serious issues such as familial abduction. And whatever anyone says about chick lit and her role in it, the girl firmly planted the flag for Asian writers everywhere, including myself, who wanted to write a modern, romantic East meets West story without feeling the guilt and for that she deserves some credit.You can follow Yasmin on Facebook.