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The Girl from Foreign: A Memoir

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  • Posted May 10, 2012

    An interesting, if somewhat dry, memoir of Sadia Shephard's year

    An interesting, if somewhat dry, memoir of Sadia Shephard's year in India and Pakistan tracking down the Bene Israel community to which her grandmother belonged.

    I found the details of the Bene Israel community informative and intriguing -- this is a community of which I wasn't aware. Ms. Shepard narrative voice, however, is oddly detached and I found much of the pacing far too slow.

    I never had a sense of precisely what it was Shepard hoped to discover -- facts of her family's past? Certainly. But what is that great 'something more' that lifts a book like this from a tepid graduate thesis to a universal symbol? I never found it, and although the back of the book declares her journey to be
    'life-changing' I was not aware of any great transformation in the narrator. If the central narrative arc of a memoir is how the events contained therein contributed to the memoirist becoming who she ultimately became, then this work is thin gruel, no matter how exotic and colorful (to Westerners) the locale may be.

    The most interesting passages, for me came towards the end of the book -- a section wherein she discovered her grandmother's recipes is particularly poignant, and perhaps that's due to the specificity of the moment. It's a lovely metaphor. I would have liked to see it, or something similar, used to greater effect throughout the work.

    Still, as I said in the beginning -- although the book drags in sections, the premise is interesting, as are the facts of the Bene Israel community.

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