An essayist writes about how she tried to flee an oppressive home life only to find herself face to face with the demons she thought she had left behind.
Piety reigned supreme in Chaudhuri’s childhood home. Joy “was like a glimmer of sunshine that slip[ped] in through the cracks…but never quite settle[d],” and shame lurked in every corner. The author struggled to reconcile her family’s faith with her own emerging beliefs and desires. She learned about sexuality covertly, through the pornographic pictures a neighbor boy showed her and the furtive caresses she exchanged with a servant girl—and later, adolescent males equally hungry for sensual experience. At the same time, Chaudhuri bore witness to the soul-crushing frustrations of her parents. A promising singer, her mother found her dreams thwarted by marriage and teachers bent on breaking her spirit. Her father, a one-time top executive, fell from grace and never again regained his former professional status. Eager to step out of the shadows that religion, her parents’ failures and demands for academic perfection cast upon her, Chaudhuri applied to college in the United States. When she left Bangladesh to attend university in Massachusetts, she vowed never to “get attached to the idea of home,” as had her parents, opting instead for the freedom of a life that would “constantly keep her on the move.” She fell in love with Yameen, a fellow Muslim expatriate born in Tanzania. Rather than find comfort in each other and their mutual alienation, both descended into an isolated world defined by half-truths, infidelity, alcohol and abuse. An affair with a deeply religious American man broke the hold both Yameen and the past had over Chaudhuri. Relieved of the twin burdens of shame and grief, she learned to let go of self-punishing behaviors and embrace imperfection—in herself, her parents and her own tangled history—with love.
Lyrical and heartfelt.