As an American expat currently living in London, I’ve taken some particular delight in reading books that are set in London and recognizing some of the locations/mannerisms that I find in the British around me. This book falls solidly within that wheelhouse. Yasmin Ghorami, our Indian-British main character, is studying to be a doctor like her Indian-born father, recently engaged to another medical student who comes from that indefinable sense of “class” that immigrants frequently find themselves seeking.
What is that “that”? What is it about how non-immigrant parents walk, talk, dress, think that seems so itchy to children of immigrants when we are young (and in Yasmin’s case, not so young)? I like to think I’ve moved away from some of that mild self-loathing/hate/discomfort as I’ve grown up, but this book reminded me (with WAVES of shame and guilt) of all the instances when I’d drag my mother up and down the aisles of Macy’s looking for a dress that said “I’m chic and hip and my daughter like yours goes to this fancy expensive private school,” or maybe “did you know I have two masters degrees in physics and computer science” or simply “Not a FOB.”
Yasmin was, in some sense, an extreme of me in many ways. Where I rebelled and reflected in my teenagers, she does so as a young adult, first job, while also trying to be the right fiancée for her fancy partner with whom she doesn’t really feel comfortable (this latter part, at least, I find echoes of in my friendships with certain people who seemed like the ‘right’ people to know). Her relationship with her father–the desperate struggle to be accepted, the slowly dawning realization that it might veer into emotional abuse–mirrored my own difficult realization that while your parents love you, they don’t always know what’s best for you in a new country (and, for the avoidance of doubt, none of the abuse-y bits!).
I don’t have the greatest hit rate with books written by the Indian diaspora, whether they are meant to be for the diaspora or not. This is, then, a rare one that spoke to me and made me think about how far we’ve all come.