Why women’s stories? Because mostly, when a South Asian woman moves to America, it does not end with a mere geographic displacement.
“Asha for Education presents Holi 2017,” ran the headline. Holi celebrations in North America is not a novelty but what grabs my attention is the venue. This Holi is celebrated on the Stanford University campus. I cannot but feel a trickle of pride that we South Asian immigrants have come a long way; we are making our presence felt in prominent American bastions.
As a community, we have adapted ourselves to beat the hometown disadvantage and rightfully earned the epithet of the privileged Immigrant. Branching out of our comfort zones — the tech industry, the science labs and the 7-11s — we are making inroads into politics, media and literature. In the field of entertainment, Indian faces are inching forward from IT colleague/cab driver cameos towards the center of the frame.
These feel good success stories aside, the bottom-line cannot be ignored that in the current political climate, we don’t have to dig deep to find the flipside. Recent headlines are a rude jolt to our collective complacency. Racial tensions and hate crimes on the rise, and the gateway towards nationalization getting narrower. Parents back in India are now cautioning their children from settling in the US. Going by the woeful tales of “eligible” young men, the luster of the “US bridegroom” is losing its sheen in the Indian marriage market.
We, at American Bazaar, believe that there has never been a more opportune time to record the personal stories of immigrants. The history, the challenges, the perceptions and the achievements of those women who crossed the seas before this generation.
Why women’s stories? Because mostly, when a South Asian woman moves to America, it does not end with a mere geographic displacement. Her identity also undergoes a momentous shift away from her patriarchal roots where she is defined as someone’s daughter, wife or mother. Invariably her story becomes more poignant, more endearing and more fascinating.
In our first article of this series, we feature noted author Bharati Mukherjee, a pioneer of Multicultural Literature, who died in New York in the beginning of the year. Her prolific prose includes novels, short story collections, powerful essays, and nonfiction books. Educated in England, India and the US, Mukherjee received an MFA and PhD from the University of Iowa. She taught literature at universities in Canada and the United States, including McGill University and the University of California, Berkeley. In 1986, Mukherjee was awarded a National Endowment of the Arts grant, and her short story collection The Middleman and Other Stories, received the National Book Critics Circle Award for Fiction in 1988.