An exuberantly inquisitive collection of essays.

Kumar (English/Vassar Coll.; A Matter of Rats: A Short Biography of Patna, 2014, etc.) reflects on an eclectic array of personal, professional, and political topics.

The 26 essays included in this collection represent what the author calls “memorial acts” dedicated to “examining the borders of the self” in relation to the world. Published over a period of 15 years, these pieces, which run the gamut from memoir to journalistic reportage to literary/cultural criticism, chart Kumar’s evolution as a distinguished Indian-American thinker and writer. In the first of four sections that comprise the book, the author recounts his experiences growing up in a culture where paper was a near-sacred object and where books and libraries were considered the height of “worldliness.” His own intellectual coming of age began after he arrived in the West as a student and became exposed to the mischievously subversive work of such writers as Hanif Kureishi and, later, Salman Rushdie, both of whom offered Kumar new ways of conceptualizing South Asian selfhood. In the second section, he considers his own writing, exploring how his work has been influenced by everything from Bollywood cinema to his life as a husband and doting father. He also discusses the disciplined habits that shaped him as a writer. In the third section, Kumar meditates on the effects that travel, migration, and immigration have had on his ideas about the nature of being in a transnational world. Time and space become conflated so that a return to India means he becomes “a tourist in that country called the past.” In the final section, Kumar examines people, including his mother, New York taxi drivers, and a conservative Hindu extremist—the  “bigot” to which the title refers—who denounced Kumar for marrying a Pakistani Muslim. Heterogeneous and complex, this book offers insight into Indian culture from a multitude of complex spaces between East and West.

An exuberantly inquisitive collection of essays.

Pub Date: May 15, 2015

ISBN: 978-0-8223-5930-2

Page Count: 240

Publisher: Duke Univ.

Review Posted Online: Feb. 23, 2015

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 15, 2015


The author's youthfulness helps to assure the inevitable comparison with the Anne Frank diary although over and above the...

Elie Wiesel spent his early years in a small Transylvanian town as one of four children. 

He was the only one of the family to survive what Francois Maurois, in his introduction, calls the "human holocaust" of the persecution of the Jews, which began with the restrictions, the singularization of the yellow star, the enclosure within the ghetto, and went on to the mass deportations to the ovens of Auschwitz and Buchenwald. There are unforgettable and horrifying scenes here in this spare and sombre memoir of this experience of the hanging of a child, of his first farewell with his father who leaves him an inheritance of a knife and a spoon, and of his last goodbye at Buchenwald his father's corpse is already cold let alone the long months of survival under unconscionable conditions. 

The author's youthfulness helps to assure the inevitable comparison with the Anne Frank diary although over and above the sphere of suffering shared, and in this case extended to the death march itself, there is no spiritual or emotional legacy here to offset any reader reluctance.

Pub Date: Jan. 16, 2006

ISBN: 0374500010

Page Count: 120

Publisher: Hill & Wang

Review Posted Online: Oct. 7, 2011

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 15, 2006



Well-told and admonitory.

Young-rags-to-mature-riches memoir by broker and motivational speaker Gardner.

Born and raised in the Milwaukee ghetto, the author pulled himself up from considerable disadvantage. He was fatherless, and his adored mother wasn’t always around; once, as a child, he spied her at a family funeral accompanied by a prison guard. When beautiful, evanescent Moms was there, Chris also had to deal with Freddie “I ain’t your goddamn daddy!” Triplett, one of the meanest stepfathers in recent literature. Chris did “the dozens” with the homies, boosted a bit and in the course of youthful adventure was raped. His heroes were Miles Davis, James Brown and Muhammad Ali. Meanwhile, at the behest of Moms, he developed a fondness for reading. He joined the Navy and became a medic (preparing badass Marines for proctology), and a proficient lab technician. Moving up in San Francisco, married and then divorced, he sold medical supplies. He was recruited as a trainee at Dean Witter just around the time he became a homeless single father. All his belongings in a shopping cart, Gardner sometimes slept with his young son at the office (apparently undiscovered by the night cleaning crew). The two also frequently bedded down in a public restroom. After Gardner’s talents were finally appreciated by the firm of Bear Stearns, his American Dream became real. He got the cool duds, hot car and fine ladies so coveted from afar back in the day. He even had a meeting with Nelson Mandela. Through it all, he remained a prideful parent. His own no-daddy blues are gone now.

Well-told and admonitory.

Pub Date: June 1, 2006

ISBN: 0-06-074486-3

Page Count: 320

Publisher: Amistad/HarperCollins

Review Posted Online: May 19, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 15, 2006

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