LEAVING INDIA

MY FAMILY’S JOURNEY FROM FIVE VILLAGES TO FIVE CONTINENTS

A scrutiny of self-identity involving immense fortitude and bravery.

San Francisco-born Indian journalist Hajratwala offers a spirited journey through the extended Indian diaspora over the last century.

The author’s family hails from the same western region of India, Gujarat, as Gandhi, and she writes that her maternal grandfather participated in the Mahatma’s legendary Salt March of 1930. Hajratwala traces the staggering expanse of Indian emigration across the globe. By her account, 11.5 million Indians are now living abroad, from Fiji to Middlesex County in New Jersey. Her family name, “hazrat-waalaa,” means one who prophesies, and her family’s caste, the Kshatriya, places them among the warrior-kings, somewhere below priests but above merchants and laborers. Centered around five villages near Navsari, her family cluster branched out once the region’s weaving industry was no longer sustainable. Her great-grandfather Motiram emigrated to the Fiji Islands in 1909 and set up one of the largest department stores in the South Pacific, becoming a catalyst for other family members to leave India. His brothers established themselves in Johannesburg and Durban, South Africa. At the time, Indians were welcomed as much-needed labor, before a racist backlash erupted and apartheid was established, along with quotas and restrictions—also reflected in America in the ’20s, as the author ably shows. Hajratwala’s father was sent from Fiji to study pharmacology in America, as part of the “brain drain” of Third World intellectuals emigrating to the United States in the ’60s in search of greater economic opportunities. From an arranged marriage within the same caste, he and the author’s mother, a physiotherapist, settled in suburban Michigan, where the author grew up. Her work is a richly—occasionally tediously—detailed, rare study of Indian diaspora, and a pleasing mixture of sociopolitical journalism and intricately layered memoir.

A scrutiny of self-identity involving immense fortitude and bravery.

Pub Date: March 18, 2009

ISBN: 978-0-618-25129-2

Page Count: 352

Publisher: Houghton Mifflin Harcourt

Review Posted Online: May 19, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 1, 2009

NIGHT

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

THE PURSUIT OF HAPPYNESS

FROM MEAN STREETS TO WALL STREET

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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