Sawnet sitenavigation
This website is no longer being updated
Sawnet - Bookshelf - Nonfiction - Reviews

The Girl from Foreign

A Search for Shipwrecked Ancestors, Forgotten Histories, and a Sense of Home

by Sadia Shepard

Penguin USA
Review by Latika Mangrulkar
10 November 2010Latika Mangrulkar lives in Santa Rosa, Ca

Book Description: Sadia Shepard grew up in a joyful, chaotic home just outside of Boston, Massachusetts, where cultures intertwined, her father a white Protestant from Colorado and her mother a Muslim from Pakistan. Her childhood was spent in a house full of stories and storytellers, where the customs and religions of both of her parents were celebrated and cherished with equal enthusiasm. But Sadia’s cultural legacy grew more complex when she discovered that there was one story she had never been told. Her beloved maternal grandmother was not a Muslim like the rest of her Pakistani family, but in fact had begun her life as Rachel Jacobs, a descendant of the Bene Israel, a tiny Jewish community whose members believe that they are one of the lost tribes of Israel, shipwrecked in India two thousand years ago. This new knowledge complicated Sadia's cultural inheritance even further, intimately linking her to the faiths of Judaism, Christianity, and Islam and to the customs of India, the United States, and Pakistan.

At her grandmother's deathbed, Sadia makes a promise to begin the process of filling in the missing pieces of her family's fractured mosaic. With the help of a Fulbright Scholarship and armed with a suitcase of camera equipment, she arrives in Bombay, where she finds herself struggling to document a community in transition. Her search to connect with the Bene Israel community and understand its unique traditions brings her into contact with a cast of remarkable characters, tests her sense of self, and forces her to examine what it means to lose and seek one’s place, one’s homelands, and one’s history. In the process, she unearths long-lost family secrets, confronts her fears of failure, and finds love in places that surprise her.

"So are you Muslim or are you Jewish?" Review in the Christian Science Monitor.
Review in the Asian Review of Books.
Brief review in the New Yorker.
Review in the Washington Post
Review in India Today

More about Sadia Shepard
[Nonfiction] [Reviews] [Bookshelf] [Sawnet]