The book is much about the problems living in another culture. Being an Indian girl living in England can be hard, because of the differences in costumes and culture between Europeans and Asians. Jesminder Bahmra, called Jess for short, is an Indian girl who lives with her family in Southall, London. Southall is a part of the town where many families of Indian origin live. She, as many other children from other parts of the world, talks English and is born in England. But many children from Asian families are encouraged to use their Asian languages at home. In London schools there are now children with 275 different mother tongues, and in Britain there are about 780 000 people who speak languages from the Indian subcontinent.
Her family can be one of those who immigrated to Britain in the 19th century. Many people immigrated to Britain from many parts of the world, such as Bangladesh and Barbados, Sierra Leone and Singapore, and in the 1950s and 1960s the largest groups of immigrants came from the West Indies and the Indian subcontinent, which are India, Pakistan and Bangladesh.
Jess has a very good talent for football, and dreams to be a professional football player like her “hero” David Beckham. But her family is very against her playing football. First of all compared with the Indian culture, girls or women aren’t supposed to do sports, because young girls are expected to help with the women's work (which consists of fetching water, preparing meals, cleaning, and so on).
I think in Europe that’s a very big difference. Girls have much more freedom to do what they want. In the last years the number of girls playing football in Europe, have increased. And in the Indian religion and culture it isn’t allowed for women to show too much of their skin. Her parents want her to study law, learn how to cook Indian food and marry a nice, Indian boy. These things are very important in the Indian culture. Many Indians take their education very seriously, and have well educated jobs, like doctors, accountants, lawyers or run businesses.
Getting married is also an important ritual. When a woman marries, she leaves her birth family, many times without seeing them again, and goes to her husband's village and becomes part of his family. Many of the bride’s parents decide whom she’s going to marry, which is very different from the European marriages. But of course the women have to marry an Indian boy, not a gora, which is a white boy. At the wedding festival itself, women and men eat in separate rooms. The bride eats with women and the bridegroom eats with men. Only after the meal, the bride and bridegroom sit together, and now it’s the time to give presents. In Europe the bride and bridegroom are together during the whole ceremony. While the bride wears a white wedding dress in many American or European weddings, brides in India wear a red sari, which is worn with a blouse underneath, with the material ranging from cotton to silk. Red is a symbol of life, fertility and joy in India.
And they take their religion very strictly in these matters. As said in the book they go to the temple every Sunday and pray to the picture of Guru Nanak, who is the founder of the Sikh religion.
Because of their traditional role, women often stay at home making food and take care of the family and the house. But the only thing Jess wants to do is play football, so when her talent is spotted by Jules, she can't resist the chance to join a women's team. Then life gets more complicated as she finds her white, Irish coach rather attractive as well. Jess starts sneaking off to training sessions then coming back home to be the perfect Indian daughter. Everyone is happy, until her parents find out and stop her playing right before the football finals. With the help of her friend Tony, Jess finds a way to play at the finals. Not only does her team win, but also Jess and Jules are given a scholarship to a sports collage in America! Jess is well on her way with her dreams becoming a professional football star!
I think the message of this book is that you don’t need to stop fulfilling your wishes and dreams whatever other people think.