Bridget Moloney '05, Brian Orloff '06, Emily Weiss '06, Recent Asian Diaspora Fiction, Northwestern University
Karim is The Buddha of Suburbia's narrator and protagonist. Karim grows up in the suburbs of London and later moves with his family to London proper. As Karim grows the novel follows him from his teenage years into his early 20s his own worldview changes significantly. Much of Karim's story is about identification, specifically being an "Englishman born and bred, almost" (3). Caught between "belonging and not," between his Indian heritage and desire to assimilate into British society, Karim invariably negotiates his hybrid identity (3); but his character seems to posit that there is a space for both identities. He accepts much of his Indianness but also appropriates the qualities of British teenagers, reveling in dominant London fashions.
Like his ethnic identification, Karim's sexuality is complicated. He says that has no preference and will sleep with anyone, male or female, though his first really important (and defining) sexual experience is with Charlie. Karim's fluid sexuality positions him in a liminal role namely because he does not claim a homosexual/heterosexual identity nor an Indian/British identity exclusively; thus, he is consistently forced to negotiate between such binaries. Karim's early sexual experiences range from various encounters with Charlie to another, quasi-regular relationship with Jamila, his childhood friend. But their sex seems mechanical, to be more about satisfying carnal impulses and, perhaps, simple friendship than anything romantic, never mind emotional. Later, as Karim becomes involved in an increasingly upwardly mobile social circle, associating with the arts community and participating in theater, he begins a complicated sexual relationship with Eleanor, an actor. Karim truly loves her and describes their relationship, saying, "I'd never had such a strong... [continues]
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