The Kothari family is one of the families that has make it big after immigrating to the US. Pradip and his wife are active members of the Indian community and are populary referred to as the "festival family" because of the huge part they play in the Navarathri celebrations. Pradip takes up the cause of the Indian merchants on Oak Tree Road in Edison, New Jersey, who experience prejudice and racial bias incidents. This experience ultimately leads him to aspire for political office. Pradip appears to be essentially a Democrat in his thoughts and ideas but then eventually ends up standing on a Republican ticket. The author tries to give some insight into this contradiction by giving us an idea of his disillusionment with politicans (both the Republicans and the Democrats) and his eventual decision that it was better off for the Indian immigrant community to have a candidate in any party rather than none at all.
The author portrays the second family, the Patels, as a very humble working class family with both mother and father working at minimum wage salaries to earn a living. The family represents the other side of life in America. Uncertain jobs, unpaid debts and dreams of education and a better life are the reality for this family as the struggle to earn a living coexists with the hope and dreams of an ultimate return to good life in India.
The third family of Shravani and Sanku Sarma represents the new wave of immigrants who came to the US as H-1B workers in the late nineties.
I thought that the quality of the writing was excellent. I was left with the impression that some of the descriptions were targeted towards a non-Indian audience or for someone who is not very intimately familiar with Indian customs and rituals.
I did not really get a feeling of how the suburbs changed the immigrants. If anything, it was the other way around with the Indians changing the suburbs. Moving to the suburbs helped bring a lot of the Indians together and they developed a sense of community with the accompanying festivals and celebrations, bigger homes and nice neighbourhoods. The author also talks about the immigrant desire for social and political parity and for acceptance in the US, which may have been partially influenced by the move to the suburbs. There was not much discussion about how the move to the suburbs affected the kids. The struggles and challenges that they faced seemed to be the general ones that any immigrant may face (city or suburb), the choice of schools, the choice of friends, the choice of life partners etc.
All in all, it was a fairly easy read. People that live in or near the Middlesex county of New Jersey may particularly find interesting the transformation of the region after the arrival of the Indian immigrants.
Book Description: traces the evolution of the suburb from a destination for new arrivals to a launching pad for them. She focuses on three waves of immigration in the post Civil Rights era through the stories of three families: the Kotharis, Patels and Sarmas.
More about S. Mitra Kalita
[Nonfiction] [Reviews] [Bookshelf] [Sawnet]