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Sex and Samosas by Jasmine Aziz

Reviewed by John Last

Sex and Samosas describes the journey of Leena, a young South Asian woman, from listless, bored TV watching and snacking, overweight, and low self-esteem, to self-confident athletic fitness; and from a contented but humdrum five-year-long childless marriage to a true marital partnership blessed with fun and lively amorous action with her husband.

It begins and ends with parties where women can buy sexy underwear, perfumed and flavoured oils and unguents, lubricants, vibrators and other sex toys, learn something about their own bodies, and have a lot of fun while getting a little loosened up by liquor. Leena is taken to the party that opens the book by her school friend Mahjong who also persuades her to join a fitness group, tone up with exercise biking, and get a “full Brazilian” (waxing to get rid of pubic hair. There’s a vivid account of the fleeting agony as the wax and pubic hair is ripped off and a lyrical description of what it feels like to have no pubic hair). There are some raunchy sex scenes but this book is more worth reading for other reasons. A few low-key sentences provide a poignant victim's perspective of ways that school girls can be cruel to a classmate whose skin pigmentation, hair texture, clothing and diet differ from the mainstream in that school. This is not headlined but deftly sketched in the background. Also sketched are accounts of some ways in which cohesive Indian extended families are cohering, yet mixing and mingling, blending into the multicultural mosaic that makes Canada such a wonderful, exciting country to live in and belong to.

In many places, including several of the raunchiest sex scenes it's laugh-out-loud funny. There’s an unforgettably funny episode in a supermarket where Leena, wearing crotchless panties, cools herself effectively by using the door of a refrigerated ice cream compartment as a fan. Ever since I read this I’ve lingered at the ice cream aisle of my supermarket, vainly hoping to see something like this play out in real life. Good descriptions of the unique ecstasy of sexual pleasures are very rare. This book contains the best description of what an orgasm feels like, that I've ever read. But I must emphasize that this book is not erotica. It is best classified as humour leavened by social commentary. I think Sex and Samosas is a very good, very well written novel. It is perceptive, very funny and delightful to read, and it has a most appropriate happy ending.

Jasmine Aziz belongs to a family that has run an Ottawa shop selling clothing, jewelry and other goods from the Indian subcontinent for more than 40 years. For several years she had another job, doing home party presentations of lingerie, perfumes, oils, edible underwear, vibrators and other sex toys. The home party descriptions in Sex and Samosas consequently have a very high quotient of artistic verisimilitude.

Sex and Samosas is being made into a movie, by Mo-D Productions, a Toronto-based film company. Script writing is in progress and filming is expected to begin in the spring of 2015. Meantime, Jasmine is making good progress on her second book, Bring Your Own Batteries: Memoirs of a retired vibrator seller.

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