How Maya Got Fierce by Sona Charaipotra

Seventeen year old Maya Gera has a love/hate relationship…with garlic. On the one hand, she’s the heir apparent to her Punjabi family’s California garlic farm, a role she’s been groomed for all her life that will guarantee her family’s future legacy and success. On the other hand, garlic, or rather, an agricultural summer course at Rutgers is what’s standing in the way of her realizing her secret dream: an internship at Fierce magazine, “…my bible, my roadmap, my lifelong guidebook” since she was ten. So what does Maya do? Simple! Ditch ”cow camp,” take the internship, and become the journalist she was always meant to be! But Maya discovers it’s not that easy to follow her dreams when it involves lying to friends and family and juggling the hearts of two very different boys who are utterly resolved to win her love and affection. To make matters even more complicated, Maya accidentally-on-purpose is hired on as an assistant editor, NOT an intern because her mentor mistakenly took her for a twenty-something! Whoa. With new obstacles popping up everyday, including a racist boss and a team of mean girls back on the farm who are determined to take her out, Maya has her hands full. Can she pull off the cover story of year while still maintaining the fiction that she has it all under control? Maya may be at her breaking point, but whatever doesn’t kill us makes us stronger and Maya is determined to make her voice, and the voices of all the brown girls she knows and loves, recognized and heard.

This delightful rom-com delves deep into two fascinating worlds that I didn’t know much about: the “Desi farmer” culture in California: ”…dozens of agricultural empires run by old-school Punjabi families, each with it’s own legacy and legend,” and New York City’s cutthroat world of magazine production. As an Indian-American entertainment writer who worked for People and Teen People magazine, Sona Charaipotra (who, full-disclosure, I took a fantastic writing workshop from) knows these cultures inside and out, and layers this tricky love triangle with loads of sensory detail from both settings, until readers can smell the manure and cardamom pods, and feel the adrenaline-fueled tension of the Fierce conference rooms. I loved every late-night-in-the-city-delicious-Indian-food-description minute of it! Get this beach-bag requisite title ASAP from your local library or bookstore.

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