Scaachi Koul is one of my favorite personalities on Twitter. I discovered her through other people that I already knew and followed, because they would constantly favorite and retweet her stuff. In my current online friends existence that was the best endorsement she could have received, and so I clicked a follow. I have not been disappointed. She’s fabulous.
Her collection of essays dropped in 2017, but I didn’t buy it until I saw it at the AWP writing conference in March. I brought it home and it sat on my bookshelf, waiting for me to work my way through my library holds that had deadlines. I finally put a hold on my holds (for now!) so I could focus more on my ARCs and owned books, and Koul’s collection was the first book I grabbed.
I have no contact with my family other than my grandmother. Finally taking the step to disconnect has made my life so much better than it had been. So when I began reading the life and times of Scaachi and her family, it seemed very close and boisterous in comparison to my no family at all. It was lovely to read about how much her parents cared about her, and funny when they seemed to care too much.
This collection of essays speaks to the pull of obligation. Obligation to family, friends, relationships, and yourself, and how you balance them all to cobble together a semblance of a balanced, fulfilling life. Because her connection to family is so strong, things like moving across the country (Canada) to go to college or dating a significantly older and white man were difficult, even when she knew they were what was right for her as an individual.
Obligation comes out of not only family but culture, because she struggles to remain connected to a culture that she has never truly grown up in. As a child of Indian immigrants that was raised in Canada, she talks about how she feels like she’ll never really be home. This discussion takes us through the racism she experiences as a result of her body type and brown skin in Canada, and then the privilege she experiences when she visits family in India and her skin is suddenly light there and a sign of being a part of the upper class. That her body and appearance could go from reviled to revered so quickly must have been (and still is) very confusing and strange.
This is an important collection to read in this moment in time. Understanding the different elements of the immigrant experience must come from as many sources as possible, and Scaachi is an amazing storyteller that will take you from Canada to India and back again. The reading that we do must include books like Scaachi’s, written by authors from all over the world about a myriad of experiences so that we can be sure to never let ignorance or inexperience stop us from being understanding, intelligent, accepting, empathetic, and supportive.
This was an amazing, quick, informative, wonderful read. Go get you some.
Great review!! I’ve had a copy of this one waiting to be read for a long time, gotta bump it up the list. It sounds really moving and meaningful.
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