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Sunday, April 27, 2014
The 1970's brought a large wave of immigration from India.
Many families arrived with little money and even less English but with an abundance of hope for the future. They believed in education and commitment to family. The Mishra family arrived in Queens, New York from Delhi in 1978. The parents of Birju and Ajay dreamed they could have a better life if they worked hard and excelled in school. There were not many role models at that time for the Mishra's and they struggled to find their way and learn how to live in such a different society. Like Jhumpa Lahiri's The Namesake, the parents desperately wanted this new American life for their children, but at the same time feared losing their traditions and beliefs. After tragedy strikes, the family spirals out of control. Father begins drinking, mother mourns her losses and Ajay is a teenage boy that can neither adapt to his new surroundings nor hold on to the past any longer. This masterful writer brings us deep into the hearts and minds of these characters. It's as if every sentence was so well thought, it is simplified to its very core. There is not a single word that is wasteful or unnecessary. I was mesmerized by this family, by this small household adrift in a foreign world and by Akhil Sharma whose writing is pure poetry.