Anthropology, Biography, Religion, Reviews

My Family and Other Saints, a bicultural memoir

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Kirin Narayan’s new book My Family and Other Saints is the author’s captivating memoir of growing up in a culturally diverse household in India. With an American mother eagerly attempting to adopt an Indian lifestyle and an Indian father who is skeptical of it, Narayan’s memoir focuses on her family’s attempt to find peace of mind even while torn between the often conflicting ideologies of east and west. Narayan’s story revolves around her brother’s decision to quit school and leave home to seek enlightenment with a guru. As a recent review in Shelf Awareness notes, Narayan “sees this event (which bemused rather than alarmed her family) as setting the entire family in a slow-forward motion along their own spiritual journeys.”
The review continues:

She describes the next few years with fine impressionistic prose, weaving together her parent’s disintegrating marriage, her father’s descent into alcoholism and her brother’s departure for the U.S. with visits to ashrams, friendhips with gurus and tales from her paternal grandmother, Ba, who was regularly visited by Hindu dieties.… Some of their stories end sadly or without resolution (“Who knows why I became a drunkard?” her father asks at the end of his life), but Narayan, a cultural anthropologist, finds the wonder and joy in her family’s journey and presents it to us with insight and grace.

Read the rest of the review online or see an excerpt from the book.