What similarities and disparities do you see between Shreene and her daughter? What does rain, the moon, and the stars represent within Gifted? How do the characters in Gifted contend with cultural stereotypes? Reflect on the conversations between Mahesh and Whitefoot while playing chess. What do we learn about Mahesh through their interactions? If so, how?
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Education exerts a powerful hold on the immigrant imagination. For first-generation immigrants, whose own dreams and aspirations were often thwarted by the cold reality of racism, it represented the means by which their children would be able to deflect discrimination and do their parents proud.
This interpretation of the value of education - particularly prevalent among the Indian diaspora - understands that it can bring freedom but also imagines that freedom can remain firmly leashed to family expectations.
It is this tension between competing versions of freedom that is explored in Nikita Lalwani's charming rite-of-passage novel. Rumi is 10 years, two months, 13 days, two hours, 42 minutes and six seconds old. Since the age of five she has lived with the knowledge that she is gifted, a mathematics prodigy for whom the secret world of numbers offers a reassuring solidity amid the uncertainties that scar her childhood. Her Indian family are avowedly and unashamedly aspiring: her father Mahesh, a mathematician, encourages his wife Shreene to visit the local library, and chooses to speak to his family in English.
It is refreshing to read about an Asian father who is not an autocratic, woman-hating brute, who takes pride in not belonging to the uneducated hordes who left the villages of Pakistan, "seeping into the dark spaces of Britain Mahesh's ambitions for his daughter lead him to organise special tuition to develop her remarkable talents. And yet, even though she can complete a Rubik's Cube in In the library, when her father assumes she is studying equations, she is in fact reading fiction, her mind filled with longing and loneliness.
She secretly resents her father's "unbearable scrutiny on her life", his ability to "descend into the Dark Ages at will", and in desperation calls simply to hear another person's voice. Lalwani's evocation of teenage dislocation is pitch-perfect and she inhabits her heroine's interior world with tender authority. The generational clash between Rumi and her parents - captured with precision and empathy - derives from the fact that her ethnicity and her genius make her special and therefore she stands out, yet she wants to be just like everyone else.
Mahesh is driven by ambition for his daughter and deludes himself that by immersing her in equations he can preserve her from the temptations of the outside world. Meanwhile, Shreene believes that no gift for maths, no love of stories will save her daughter from the life that all young Asian girls are expected to follow.
Rumi's precocious talent enables her to begin an Oxford degree when only 15 years, three months and eight days old, and it is here that she finally begins to emerge from her parents' shadow. In one beautifully described scene that takes place on her first day at university, Rumi stares at herself in the mirror and begins to curse. Pulling different faces and adopting a variety of voices, she uses the foulest language she knows and does it out loud.
Because she can. Once she's tasted freedom, and the potent possibilities of affection - from, of all things, a young Muslim boy - a showdown with her parents is inevitable. Set amid the terraced streets of Cardiff, Lalwani's novel revitalises familiar subject-matter in second- generation immigrant fiction.
In its broad contours, it echoes events in the real world, notably the story of Sufiah Yusof, a maths prodigy who began her studies at Oxford when She disappeared in , blaming her parents for placing too much pressure on her and for "15 years of physical and emotional abuse", and was eventually found by the police in Bournemouth after a nationwide hunt.
The tragedy of child prodigies such as Sufiah and Rumi is that in pushing them towards education, their parents also pushed them away from them. Topics Books. Fiction reviews. Reuse this content. Most popular.
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Rumi Vasi is a maths prodigy. She passes her O-level in the subject at 11, her A-level at 14, and is studying at Oxford by the age of Her father, a university mathematics professor himself, pushes her through the necessary training with a sternness and intensity that recalls James Mill's education of the young John Stuart. Her mother, meanwhile, pressures her to be a good Hindu girl, while denying that Indians produce babies through sexual intercourse only white people do that. During all this, Rumi grows cleverer, shyer, prouder, unhappier, more rebellious.
Freedom by numbers
They were hardly shopkeepers. Determined to push Rumi ahead, Mahesh transforms her life into a round-the-clock academic boot camp. But as she grows up, she rebels — reading novels by flashlight under the bedcovers, transcribing song lyrics, mooning over boys. In this, Rumi joins a pantheon of alienated adolescent literary heroines, but is she a genuine prodigy or merely your garden-variety overbright girl? While much of the novel rings true, little in it feels revelatory.
Gifted Reader’s Guide
Education exerts a powerful hold on the immigrant imagination. For first-generation immigrants, whose own dreams and aspirations were often thwarted by the cold reality of racism, it represented the means by which their children would be able to deflect discrimination and do their parents proud. This interpretation of the value of education - particularly prevalent among the Indian diaspora - understands that it can bring freedom but also imagines that freedom can remain firmly leashed to family expectations. It is this tension between competing versions of freedom that is explored in Nikita Lalwani's charming rite-of-passage novel.