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26

THURSDAY

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Abha Dawesar’s Babyji is the reason I should read more contemporary fiction. I stick largely with my beloved white-male, mid- to late-century cranks, mostly because they are tried and true and I rarely have to wrestle with the guilt of abandoning them a hundred pages in. But the main problem with my lame formula is that I miss out on a lot of potentially great books (Babyji being one of them) and authors with unique voices (Dawesar’s being one of them) that avoid the common pitfalls of self-importance, gimmick, and overt wackiness. Set in Delhi, Babyji is the story of Anamika, a 16-year-old physics whiz who’s discovering her sexuality. Dawesar manages to skirt every coming-of-age cliché, not only with her refreshingly earnest heroine, but also with language that is frank and incredibly elegant. She never gives in to the easy distraction, and the result is that Anamika’s ongoing scientific dissection of India’s complex caste system is as riveting—and important—as her physical awakening. Dawesar reads at 7 p.m. at Olsson’s Books and Records, 418 7th St. NW. Free. (202) 638-7610. (Anne Marson)