Thursday, December 6, 2012

What I've been reading lately: The Girl from Foreign by Sadia Shepard

This is a beautifully crafted memoir. 

Sadia is the daughter of a Protestant man from Colorado and a Muslim woman from Pakistan growing up in the Boston area.

While rummaging through her grandmother's jewelry as a teenager, she discovers a pin with name "Rachel Jacobs" inscribed on it.

Nana explains that she grew up in an Indian family of Jewish descent and part of the Bene Israel community believed to be descendants of one of the lost tribes that escaped from Israel over 2,000 years ago.

According to oral tradition, these survivors arrived in India when their boat was shipwrecked.

At first Nana explains that she is a Muslim and that both Judaism and Islam believe in the same God. Later she explains that  Judaism is "the religion of my forefathers and the other is the religion of my children."

Nana, we learn, was secretly married to a Pakistani man with two other wives.

Armed with photographic equipment and a mission to discover her roots, Sadia spends her Fullbright Scholarship year in India and Pakistan to track down her ancestors both Hindu, Muslim and Jewish.

The book is rich with photographic detail;  Sadia participates in a Muslim wedding in Pakistan and the festival of Tabernacles (Succoth) with her relatives in India.

Stay with this book through there is some slow reading in the middle. Sadia's preoccupation with detail and dialogue are arresting.

At the end of the book, she is faced with the dilemma  of choosing between the three religions.

The outcome will be interesting.

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