Farooki, Roopa 1974–
Farooki, Roopa 1974–
Born 1974, in Lahore, Pakistan; moved with family to London, England, during childhood; married; children: two. Education: Graduated from New College, Oxford, 1995.
Home—North London, England; France. Agent—Gillon Aitken Associates, 18-21 Cavaye Pl., London SW10 9PT, England.
Writer. Worked for several years in advertising in Great Britain at JWT and Saatchi & Saatchi companies; full-time writer, 2004—.
Bitter Sweets (novel), St. Martin's Press (New York, NY), 2007.
Corner Shop (novel), Pan MacMillan (London, England), 2008, St. Martin's Press (New York, NY), 2009.
Roopa Farooki is a novelist who was born in Pakistan but moved to England with her family when she was just an infant. Raised in London, she studied at Oxford and worked in advertising for several years. She was associated with prestigious accounts such as Rolex, Hewlett-Packard, and Shell Oil. In 2004, she left her advertising career to take up writing full-time. She had been thinking over the themes she wanted to write about for some time, and in a matter of six months, she completed her manuscript. In 2007, she published her first novel, titled Bitter Sweets. The novel is a multigenerational story of a Bengali/Pakistani family and the impact that deception has on the family's relationships. In an interview published on the PanMacmillan.com Web site, the author stated: "I think that many Pakistani and Bangladeshi immigrant families still struggle with the disparity between their traditional Eastern and Islamic values and those of the Western society in which they have chosen to live." She mentioned dating, drinking alcohol, gambling, and homosexuality as practices that are strongly forbidden in traditional Islamic culture but are widespread and practiced openly in Western culture. "That said, in Bitter Sweets the moral conflicts of the characters which lead them to deceive are not a result of religious dilemmas or culture clashes, but rather due to their very personal and ambiguous emotions," she stated. Much of her inspiration came from her father, whom she described in an article for the Guardian Online as "a charmingly unrepentant rogue who found telling the truth rather dull, as though it somehow lacked imagination. Other people telling the truth landed him in jail on more than one occasion and in more than one country. This continued well into his 60s, when he should have known better."
In Bitter Sweets, the story begins with Ricky-Rashid. Rashid is his given name, but because of his education abroad and his affinity for Western culture, he prefers to be called Ricky. This is one of many things his family cannot understand about him. Ricky-Rashid marries Henna, who has lured him to propose by acting as though she shares his Anglophilia, when in reality she does not. When Ricky-Rashid travels to England on business, however, he starts a whole new life for himself. Years later, Ricky-Rashid's daughter with Henna, Shona, marries secretly and also goes to England, where she has two sons, named Omar and Sharif. The entire family engages in so many lies and deceptions that it becomes difficult to know what is true and what is not, even within the family. When Ricky-Rashid has a heart attack, the family must try to sort out truth from lies. A reviewer for the Web site A Girl Walks into a Bookstore … found the book to be "excellently written, with an eye for minute detail." Janet Maslin, assessing the book for the New York Times Book Review Online, called it a "fizzy debut" for Farooki and an "enjoyably breezy book." By its conclusion, Maslin stated, it is evident that "Ms. Farooki has been maneuvering her characters toward a major showdown. She contrives a twist of fate that will drag their hidden lives into the light. To her credit she does not make ‘Bitter Sweets’ descend into either screwball revelations or angry ones. Despite its emphasis on deception, dislocation and the loss of love, her book retains a cheery consistency: It has managed to be sunnily devious from the start. And it delivers a refreshing message. Only by means of all their elaborate deceptions do these characters figure out who they really are."
Discussing how someone might get started as a novelist, Farooki said in her interview for PanMacmillan.com: "Once you're written something you're proud of, be professional and persistent in approaching literary agents and publishers—read the books on making effective submissions, and then put yourself in every slush pile and competition you can. If your work is good, you'll get noticed eventually, even if it takes months and years. And once you've finished writing your first book, don't put off writing your second; lots of authors don't get their first effort published, and if you have two books under your belt you'll have demonstrated to agents and publishers that you're a serious writer, and not a one-trick pony."
BIOGRAPHICAL AND CRITICAL SOURCES:
Booklist, August 1, 2007, Kristine Huntley, review of Bitter Sweets, p. 32.
Kirkus Reviews, September 15, 2007, review of Bitter Sweets.
Library Journal, September 1, 2007, Faye A. Chadwell, review of Bitter Sweets, p. 126.
Publishers Weekly, July 16, 2007, review of Bitter Sweets, p. 141.
School Library Journal, November 1, 2007, Shannon Peterson, review of Bitter Sweets, p. 160.
Asians in Media,http://www.asiansinmedia.org/ (August 5, 2008), review of Bitter Sweets.
A Girl Walks into a Bookstore …,http://agirlwalksintoabookstore.blogspot.com/ (August 5, 2008), review of Bitter Sweets.
Guardian Online,http://www.guardian.co.uk/ (August 5, 2008), Roopa Farooki, "The Charming Man."
New York Times Book Review Online,http://www.nytimes.com/ (August 5, 2008), Janet Maslin, review of Bitter Sweets.
PanMacmillan.com,http://www.panmacmillan.com/ (August 5, 2008), interview with Roopa Farooki.
Roopa Farooki Home Page,http://www.roopafarooki.com (August 5, 2008).
Roopa Farooki MySpace Page,http://www.myspace.com/145786569 (August 5, 2008).
Thinking Mother,http://thethinkingmother.blogspot.com/ (August 5, 2008), review of Bitter Sweets.
Trashionista,http://www.trashionista.com/ (August 5, 2008), review of Bitter Sweets.