A stirring defense of “identity politics” and the need to reclaim narratives as well as a powerful account of the transformation of a journalist into an activist.
The old adage says that the personal is political (and vice versa), and it is the personal that elevates this above the typical activist broadside. Roychoudhuri combines the reporting chops of an experienced journalist with literary flair and a conversational, common-sense approach that seems far more heartfelt than dogmatic. “My primary identity is not as a first-generation Indian-American,” she writes, after recounting her frustrations with an agent interested in her fiction who suggested she make it more “Jhumpa Lahiri-sh.” “I identity more as an ambiguously brown American—one who decided to learn Spanish in part because so many people assume I’m Latina.” As such, the author establishes that she is emblematic of the “marginalized majority” in a country where appeals to reach the “average American” generally connote one who is white and male and where “working-class American” is similarly misrepresented given “the fact that the majority of the American working class is part of an ethnic or racial minority.” Throughout, Roychoudhuri gives voice to those whose voices are too little heard. She finds great hope in “solidarity and intersectionality in protests,” showing how #metoo, Black Lives Matter, Occupy Wall Street, and other movements of the supposedly marginalized have moved into the mainstream. “Marginalized Americans are at the heart of the movement,” she writes. “And they always have been.” Along the way, the author recounts her progression from a reporter more comfortable observing from the sidelines to an activist in the middle of the fray as she tackles myths of subjectivity and objectivity that can distort the reality.
There have been plenty of books covering similar territory—and there will be many more in the years to come—but rarely are they as persuasive and engaging as this one.