cover image Not Quite Not White: Losing and Finding Race in America

Not Quite Not White: Losing and Finding Race in America

Sharmila Sen. Penguin Books, , $16 ISBN 978-0-14-313138-0

Sen, executive editor-at-large of Harvard University Press, depicts her early life in Calcutta, India, and her experiences as a young immigrant in the United States in this captivating memoir. As a young girl in Calcutta in the 1970s, Sen benefited from immense privilege based on her caste, her father’s income, and her ability to speak English. She paints a vivid and often disturbing picture of poverty in India and the ways in which she excelled merely because of her circumstances. An incident when she sits on her bed and observes a servant boy about her age angrily sweep the floor of her room leaves an indelible mark on her consciousness. Upon her family’s emigration to Cambridge, Mass., when she is 12 years old, Sen’s worldview flips to one where she is a minority, and race becomes a focal point of her life. She and her family struggle to learn the ways of whiteness in an attempt to assimilate, from modifying their accents to adopting an American cuisine that consists mostly of Bisquick mixes and Campbell soups. Readers interested in first-generation immigrant stories will enjoy this heartfelt account of how newcomers carve a space for themselves in the melting pot of America. (Aug.)