Debut author and community organizer Prabasi reflects on a life spent in Nepal and Ethiopia and on the disconcerting political environment that she found in the United States.
When the Netherlands-born author’s family moved to Nepal, she was in the fifth grade and could speak but neither read nor write the native language. She attended an American international school in Kathmandu and later moved to the United States to attend college. While visiting Ethiopia, she fell deeply in love with its “vast expanses, its diversity of landscape and languages,” and its coffee, too, which is a prized part of the culture. There, she also met her future husband, Elias, and gave birth to her first child, but she became concerned about the country’s “controlling and authoritarian political system” and decided to move to New York City for a safer, freer life and greater opportunity. The author and her spouse wanted to start a business, so they opened Café Buunni in 2012, just over a year after they’d landed in the city. Later, Prabasi was shocked by Donald Trump’s coarse campaign for the presidency—she became an American citizen just in time to vote in the 2016 election—and she became anxious that the country where she’d made her home was quickly becoming inhospitable to immigrants and people of color. The author’s impressionistic account of her travels is poetically thoughtful, and she has a keen eye for granular detail, which she evokes in delicate, vivid language. Also, she offers an inspiring tale of community-based political action; her cafe participated in a fundraiser for the American Civil Liberties Union, which will remind some older readers of decades past, when cafes were hotbeds of political organization. However, others may find her frenzied depiction of the United States following Trump’s election to be hyperbolic, as she describes a country that seems solely defined by its “racism, the white supremacy, the gun violence, the war economy, the individualism taken to extremes that leaves little room for empathy or compassion.”
A beautifully written memoir that offers familiar calls for political resistance but little in-depth political analysis.