Where truly is your home? Where do you belong physically and spiritually? Is it in the place of your ancestors? In The Girl from Foreign: A Search for Shipwrecked Ancestors, Forgotten Histories, and A Sense of Home, Sadia Shepard spends a year in India. Her Fulbright Scholarship specifies that she is documenting the history and remains of the Bene Israel community, a little-known enclave of Jews in India established two thousand years ago, but she is really there to discover her grandmother's spiritual roots.
Shepard is a truly multicultural person, the descendant of many cultures. Her grandmother was Jewish raised in India, her mother Muslim raised in Pakistan, and her father Christian raised outside Boston. Because her grandmother lived with her family outside Boston, Shepard receive equal amounts of instruction in the three religions as a child. Luckily for her, the household was filled with tolerance and respect, but now that she is an adult, people are urging her to choose one path, something she is reluctant to do.
The Girl from Foreign: A Search for Shipwrecked Ancestors, Forgotten Histories, and A Sense of Home is just my kind of book, a memoir from an American who traveled abroad, full of observations about other countries and their cultures. I especially like that she shows why people love their homelands, even the places that the media so often depicts as dangerous places. I suspect many readers will identify with Shepard's sense of being an outsider wanting to be let in. Don't we all want this?
Shepard, Sadia. The Girl from Foreign: A Search for Shipwrecked Ancestors, Forgotten Histories, and A Sense of Home. Penguin Press, 2008. ISBN 9781594201516