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A Memoir of an Unlikely Doctor

by Lally Pia

Pub Date: April 30th, 2024
ISBN: 9781647427115
Publisher: She Writes Press

Pia recalls her journey from a childhood in Sri Lanka to a career as a doctor in the United States—fulfilling the prediction of a Hindu priest—in this memoir.

The author, her parents’ first child, was born in Sri Lanka in 1961, a time when the island was undergoing political turmoil and violent persecution of the Tamil minority. When she was three months old, her father traveled to attend a gathering welcoming a renowned Hindu priest. Looking into her father’s eyes, the priest spoke the words her father would repeat throughout the subsequent years: “Take good care of her. Your daughter will become a doctor of doctors.” Three months later, she and her parents moved to Kumasi, Ghana, to escape the increasing Sinhalese violence. Life in Ghana was good: Her father was an architect, her mother was a teacher, and the country was experiencing prosperity—until a series of revolutions began. Pia was 22 in 1983 when her family, which now included three younger siblings, received their green cards to enter the United States. She had two months left at her university, where she would complete her pre-med undergraduate degree. Then the medical school closed indefinitely, and the U.S. State Department discovered it had made an error that invalidated the author’s green card. She was adrift, without family, home, or country. In a compelling, albeit occasionally repetitious, memoir that reads more like a novel, Pia meticulously leads readers through an immigrant journey filled with twists. A riveting opening introduces us to the author in 1994, when she was the 33-year-old director of the Donated Body Program at the University of California, Davis, removing the head from a female corpse. The skillfully penned narrative, packed with vivid images of adventure, betrayal, and triumph, has an intimacy that will leave readers sighing during the long years of her painfully abusive marriage and cheering when she strikes out for independence.

An intriguing, emotionally powerful, and culturally informative read.