Monday, June 11, 2012

On the Outside Looking Indian: How My Second Childhood Changed My Life by Rupinder Gill

On the Outside Looking Indian: How My Second Childhood Changed My Life. Rupinder Gill.  Penguin Group (USA) Incorporated. 2012. 288 pp. pbk. ISBN #: 9781594485770.

Welcome to the world of an Indian-American family whose values center on hard work, housekeeping at home and in one's career job after childhood.  It's a world where parents are selfless and totally dedicated to children but it's a very narrow world.  Rupinder humorously describes her world which sounds like a litany of "what i want" followed by multiple negative responses.  So no movies, no sleep-overs, no mall trips, no long empty telephone conversations, etc., etc.  But Rupinder has a novel point of view!  She lies when she has to and she sets her heart on making a list of what she will do when she finally gets the chance!

What follows is a funny description of all the things she finally gets to do in her early thirties.  Tennis and swimming are disastrous at first attempts but on she forges.  No, she doesn't wind up in the Olympic USA team for either sport, but she keeps at it until she reaches a level of success that she's content with.  How about having a dog; seeing the "bleep storm" from her friend's dog makes her realize that it's not all roses in achieving one's desires.  The same goes for her dream of going to New York, a risk she takes by quitting her job in Canada.  Dancing, Disney World and so many more dreams come true - finally!

Without being moralistic, Rupinder realizes many things during her new "play" and "make your dream come true" times.  Does she reject them?  Not at all!  What she does realize is that they aren't 100% joy, there's something one learns in each, and they all evoke memories of her own childhood that take on a new element of preciousness now that those years are far from her present.

On the Outside Looking Indian is a simple yet potent story about coming of age from a different cultural point of view.  It's funny and frustrating earlier as the memories flow but there's a breakthrough where everything achieves an amazing perspective. Rupinder has become what she wants and is better at it because she knows who she is!  Uniquely written!

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