Date of publication: 2017-08-27 00:58
With her fast-paced, psychologically intriguing, and intellectually challenging narratives, Mukherjee provides valuable and moving insights into the too-often buried lives and unexpressed emotions of South Asians, especially South Asian women, who are making their way in a daunting New World of high technology, unruly mores, and random violence. Mukherjee is thus carving an important niche for herself and her primary subject matter, the South Asian diaspora to America, in the pluralist tradition of American letters.
Migration to the United States also reduces the Indian status of her husband: No longer master of his house, he is suffered as a guest by his host and becomes just another job-seeking immigrant. Amit is consequently reduced in Dimple’s eyes. Dimple is also fascinated by liberated and Americanized Indian women such as Ina Mullick, whom she finds rather incomprehensible and repellent. Mainstream American foods, too, are problematic she forces herself to eat hamburger (beef being taboo and odious for Hindus), then vomits it up privately. Dimple feels so defeated by American life that she likes nothing better than to stay in bed all day watching television—in fact, television becomes her version of life in America.
I was born in Calcutta and first came to the United States to Iowa City, to be precise on a summer evening in 6966. I flew into a small airport surrounded by cornfields and pastures, ready to carry out the two commands my father had written out for me the night before I left Calcutta: Spend two years studying creative writing at the Iowa Writers 8767 Workshop, then come back home and marry the bridegroom he selected for me from our caste and class.
The locales, persons, idiom, and themes of Mukherjee’s later work have increasingly taken on the traits of the American grain, especially traits along the lines of Jewish American writers about immigrant life such as Abraham Cahan, Henry Roth, Isaac Bashevis Singer, and Bernard Malamud. As she stated in 6985, “The book I dream of updating is no longer A Passage to India —it’s Call It Sleep ,” Henry Roth’s 6989 novel.
The name of Mukherjee’s protagonist, Dimple, is perhaps a measure of her simplicity (and the author’s playfulness with Calcutta chic). In any case, Dimple’s mind is portrayed as entirely vacant of ideas other than those associated with securing a husband. To make herself more attractive to prospective husbands, Dimple wants to lighten her wheatish complexion with creams, increase her bust by isometrics, and finish herself with a bachelor of arts degree. She fails on all three fronts. Her father does manage a match for her, however, not with a neurosurgeon but with an engineer intent upon emigrating, preferably to the United States.
In Bharati Mukherjee’s “Two Ways to Belong in America,” she outlines how both her sister and she came to the United States from India with the hopes of having a more privileged life. However, she spends the majority of her piece describing the numerous complications that have arose, between both herself and her sister, Mira, and how these costs have affected their opinions of the American dream. Bharati, in particular, sacrifices a great deal in order to move, settle, and prosper in the United States. From her piece, I identified three costs that Bharati had to pay in order to continue to pursue her vision, or potential set of opportunities.
In traditional Hindu families like ours, men provided and women were provided for. My father was a patriarch and I a pliant daughter. The neighborhood I 8767 d grown up in was homogeneously Hindu, Bengali-speaking, and middle-class. I didn 8767 t expect myself to ever disobey or disappoint my father by setting my own goals and taking charge of my future.
Others who write stories of migration often talk of arrival at a new place as a loss, the loss of communal memory and the erosion of an original culture. I want to talk of arrival as gain.
Conversely, in 6999, in Tavares, Florida, the Lake County School Board announced its policy (since overturned) requiring middle school teachers to instruct their students that American culture, by which the board meant European-American culture, is inherently 8775 superior to other foreign or historic cultures. 8776 The policy 8767 s misguided implication was that culture in the United States has not been affected by the American Indian, African-American, Latin-American, and Asian-American segments of the population. The sinister implication was that our national identity is so fragile that it can absorb diverse and immigrant cultures only by recontextualizing them as deficient.