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She longs for India as much as he yearns to become an American

'The Konkans' tells the story of a cross-cultural misalliance.

Illustration collage by Rich Clabaugh–STAFF

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Family values sound like a solid bedrock on which to raise children. (Certainly, politicians think so.) But what if one spouse prizes what the other despises, as is the case with the D'Sais of Chicago?

Francisco D'Sai is the firstborn son of a firstborn son of a firstborn son (you get the idea) of a Konkan family that views birth order as destiny. The Konkans, sometimes called "the Jews of India," are a Roman Catholic minority who live on that country's west coast. They converted to Christianity when Portuguese explorer Vasco de Gama showed up on the beach in the 16th century and set up an Inquisition.

The Konkans, the second novel by Tony D'Souza (author of award-winning "Whiteman") is less a novel and more a series of interconnected short stories, set in India and Chicago in the 1960s and '70s, that pivot around three central characters: Francisco's mother and father, and his uncle Sam.

Lawrence, his dad, who worships the British with a fervor greater than Rudyard Kipling at his most colonial, longs for the West. When a white Peace Corps volunteer shows up in his village, she might as well have INS stamped on her forehead. Chicago isn't Oxford, but Lawrence and his dad see blond, ponytailed Denise as the means to make the D'Sai family fortunes.

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