BROWN, WHITE, BLACK by Nishta J. Mehra


An American Family at the Intersection of Race, Gender, Sexuality, and Religion
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Two women, an adopted black son, and the prejudices and fears they endure as a family.

Mehra (The Pomegranate King, 2013) is “the first-generation daughter of Indian immigrants.” She’s also a lesbian married to a white woman, and they have adopted a black son. In this candid and sometimes angry, bitter series of essays, the author explores how difficult it can be to be anything but white in America. “Our family doesn’t fit well into boxes,” she writes. “We don’t fit at all.” From an early age, she writes, she felt different than her peers because her skin was brown, she sometimes wore different clothes, and the food she ate at home was unlike what the other children ate. At times, she embraced her Indian heritage, but occasionally, she was ashamed of it, which was especially stressful for her father, who died when Mehra was in her 20s. The author is annoyed at the appropriation by non-Indians of symbols that have importance to the Hindu faith. She discusses the tension and anxiety surrounding her coming out as a lesbian, and she shares her fears for her black son. “Becoming the parent of a black son,” writes Mehra, “has given me the perspective to see that there is a real reluctance to engage in a conversation about the Asian American community’s participation in anti-black racism. Related to this is a tendency to accommodate and apologize; I learned early on that white people are bad at being uncomfortable.” The essays feature a mostly smooth, engaging mix of pride, passion, frustration, and anger. Numerous times Mehra has been unnecessarily questioned about her life. With this book, she makes a strong statement about the importance of moving beyond gender and racial barriers toward a more inclusive view of family life.

Full of a wide range of insights and emotions, these essays effectively show the difficulties of being a mixed-race, same-sex family in America.

Pub Date: Feb. 5th, 2019
ISBN: 978-1-250-13355-7
Page count: 224pp
Publisher: Picador
Review Posted Online:
Kirkus Reviews Issue: Nov. 1st, 2018


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