I just stumbled upon this book on Twitter when the author Mira shared a couple of illustrations from the graphic novel about Indian aunties and I couldn’t stop laughing and I decided that I had to read it. However, I ended up not finding the graphic novel at my library and had to listen to the audiobook which turned out to be totally unexpected and wonderful in its own way.
This memoir is completely heartfelt, witty and hilarious while tackling very complex issues surrounding race in the America of the current president. The author’s own growing up timeline felt familiar, irrespective of the fact that I grew up in India. The relationship she shared with her parents and relatives, their conversations and ideas and values all felt so relatable (not always in a good way though). When she talks about the colorism that she faced in India due to being darker toned than her parents and brother, it hit me very hard. Just like her, I too heard a lot growing up that my parents were going to have a tough time finding a guy for me because I wasn’t as fair as I used to be when I was a child. As a young well educated woman, I was constantly told I shouldn’t want to marry an equally highly educated man because neither was I very pretty nor was I rich enough to harbor such dreams. This whole idea of reducing a woman’s self worth to the color of her skin is still far too common in India even years after when the author’s own story takes place.
The other thing the author talks about is the othering she felt both while trying to date (as a bisexual woman of color) and as an aspiring author trying to make it. There are numerous occasions in the story where she encounters little statements or micro aggressions by white people, who are completely tone deaf and clueless as to how racist they come across. As an author, she has to explain to a radio producer that referring to her characters as Asian Indian instead of East Indian just so that Americans can understand it better is so darn ignorant. And all these little things just add up and go on and the author (like many other POC) doesn’t confront or argue with these people because that will not change anything. There is a frustration that is reflected in the author’s narration that I totally empathized with because it’s a reality for many of us.
And the most important and also the most difficult and heartbreaking parts of the book were her conversations with her six year old biracial son. He is an inquisitive little child always asking her lots of questions, which she wants to answer honestly – until he starts listening to the 2016 election campaign rhetoric on the news and wants to know if Trump hates him, if his white Jewish dad will have to give him and his mom up if Trump wins the election and has lots of questions about racism and prejudice and more other issues that affect him profoundly – she doesn’t know how to answer them all in a way he can understand, but can’t avoid them either because they will affect his daily life. When Mira has to explain to him that his Trump supporting republican grandparents still love him, he is truly confused and wants to beg them not to vote for him and it broke her heart along with mine. The line “sometimes the people who love you will choose a world that doesn’t” is still haunting me hours after finishing the book. While she spent the election night with her husband and their friends lamenting on the result (and also not feeling completely surprised by it), I was all alone in my home reeling with what I was seeing on tv – but the thoughts that were running through our head were the same. These conversations that she has with her kid and everything she is grappling with about her son’s future, are the same I think about when I envision having a kid who will probably be born American, but will ultimately always be defined by their skin color.
I have read in other reviews that the author’s illustration style is amazing but the full cast audio (with music and situational background score) is absolutely spectacular and I would highly recommend this format too. This book is very thought provoking and funny and also sad and I think POC readers will find some very relatable experiences in it. Thats not to say others won’t, but I feel people who have lived these experiences will have a unique appreciation for this book.