Dreaming in Hindi: Coming Awake in Another Language

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Overview

An eye-opening and courageous memoir that explores what learning a new language can teach us about distant worlds and, ultimately, ourselves.

After miraculously surviving a serious illness, Katherine Rich found herself at an impasse in her career as a magazine editor. She spontaneously accepted a freelance writing assignment to go to India, where she found herself thunderstruck by the place and the language, and before she knew it she was on her way to Udaipur, a city in the ...

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Dreaming in Hindi: Coming Awake in Another Language

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Overview

An eye-opening and courageous memoir that explores what learning a new language can teach us about distant worlds and, ultimately, ourselves.

After miraculously surviving a serious illness, Katherine Rich found herself at an impasse in her career as a magazine editor. She spontaneously accepted a freelance writing assignment to go to India, where she found herself thunderstruck by the place and the language, and before she knew it she was on her way to Udaipur, a city in the northwestern state of Rajasthan, in order to learn Hindi. Rich documents her experiences—ranging from the bizarre to the frightening to the unexpectedly exhilarating—using Hindi as the lens through which she is given a new perspective not only on India, but on the radical way the country and the language itself were changing her. Fascinated by the process, she went on to interview linguistics experts around the world, reporting back from the frontlines of the science wars on what happens in the brain when we learn a new language. She brings both of these experiences together seamlessly in Dreaming in Hindi, a remarkably unique and thoughtful account of self-discovery.

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  • Katherine Russell Rich
    Katherine Russell Rich  

Editorial Reviews

From the Publisher
"Dreaming in Hindi is the verbally and emotionally dazzling story of Rich's passage to India, where she tried to master an intricate foreign tongue—and became fluent in the language of human possibility."—O, The Oprah Magazine, "Ten Terrific Reads of 2009"

 
"Riveting and sharply observed."—Wall Street Journal

 
"A work that will inevitably be compared to Elizabeth Gilbert's Eat, Pray, Love . . . [Dreaming in Hindi] traces the far-flung adventures of a thoughtful, soul-searching, single woman from New York."—New York Times

 
"Rich is a charming raconteur."—San Francisco Chronicle

"In her deftly written memoir, Dreaming in Hindi, Rich makes us wish we too could come alive in a foreign world, fearless of mistakes, misperceptions and mishaps, and enlivened by the unfamiliar . . . a natural journalist, [she] gracefully sprinkles reportage about neuroscience and linguistics, as well as her own poignant insights, into her narrative."—Elle

 
"[A] wonderful memoir . . . Fluidly interspersed within [Rich’s] witty, tongue-in-cheek account of the nutty fellow students and nosy, however well-meaning, Indian spectators are comments and elucidation on second-language acquisition from experts, and observations while visiting a school for the deaf . . . In her deft and spirited prose [Rich] depicts being literally 'possessed by words.'"—Publishers Weekly (starred review)

 
"Rich has a witty, conversational, intimate voice that draws the reader into experiences that sometimes seem surreal, sometimes all too real. The science is fascinating."—Portsmouth Herald

 
"Lovely."—Houston Chronicle

 
"Piquant, frank, and penetrating, Rich’s intricate memoir is as beguiling as language itself."—Booklist

 
"A charming intellectual travelogue, partly about the culture and history of India, partly about the nature of language and language learning, and also, as usual for great travel writing, very much about its author. 'I ski Hindi,' [Rich writes and] elsewhere in the book, she skis psycholinguistics, in long, gleeful conversations in university laboratories . . . and just about every other language-related discipline gets at least one downhill run as well."—Mark Liberman in Language Log

 
"One of the best foreign observers of contemporary India, Rich's gaze on the country is witty, empathetic, and intimate."—Suketu Mehta, author of Maximum City

 
"A hilarious and erudite book about the pratfalls involved in learning another language. Dreaming in Hindi is also a sobering examination of the violence of culture clash and an eloquent testimony to the transformative power of genuine immersion in another world."—Wendy Doniger, author of The Hindus

"Dreaming in Hindi is a funny, deeply humane journey of words that invites the reader to awaken to new sounds and sensibilities in India. What a gorgeous, intelligent book!"—Jayne Anne Phillips, author of Lark and Termite

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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780547336930
  • Publisher: Houghton Mifflin Harcourt
  • Publication date: 6/10/2010
  • Pages: 384
  • Sales rank: 455,082
  • Product dimensions: 5.31 (w) x 8.00 (h) x 1.00 (d)

Meet the Author

KATHERINE RUSSELL RICH was the award-winning author of The Red Devil: To Hell with Cancer—and Back . She wrote for the New York Times Magazine , the Washington Post , Slate , and Vogue , and taught writing at Lesley University in Cambridge, Massachusetts, until her death in 2012 after a nearly quarter-century battle with breast cancer.

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Customer Reviews

Average Rating 3.5
( 12 )
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Sort by: Showing all of 12 Customer Reviews
  • Posted June 14, 2014

    Know What You're Dreaming About...

    "Dreaming in Hindi" offers the perils of learning a second language, as told by the intrepid student linguist Katherine Russell Rich. "This book, the way I'd conceived it before I left [for India], was going to be solely about the near mystical and transformative powers of language: the way that words, with only the tensile strength of breath, can tug you out of one world and land you in the center of another."

    Then, with this ambitious manifesto nailed down, Rich casually admits that she basically lacks foreign language skills. "I simply love the process...Me, when I travel, I just want to speak. I've always been fascinated by language in any form, the more unintelligible, the better."

    Well, she couldn't have picked a better subject than Hindi, the great--formidably great--language of India. Is it hard? Betcha. In New York, Rich took preparatory lessons from a "moonlighting" Columbia professor, Ms. Susham Bedi, "and the language was making my head smolder. One misplaced m, and you were no longer saying "weather" but "husband of maternal aunt." You had to learn to think in sentences whose verbs went at the end, which had the effect of producing vertigo: "to the house the mother the child is taking."

    Pronunciation was another horror. And writing the sentence was, well: "I couldn't write it. The beautiful letters, like stick trees that had bumped into a ceiling or a revue of performing snakes, came out like cows' heads in my hands. I was frustrated and fascinated."

    The learning process created psychological effects. "At night I dream in Hindi I can't understand. The language has to stay fixed, or I'll lose the nuance: Aap, not ap...I know it when they say it, then two days later, it's gone. My English sometimes now feels spotty, as if, in preserving the new words as long as possible, my brain keeps the old ones tamped down."

    This is a colorful, witty, eloquent, moving read by a persevering author who has a remarkable story to tell--about the words we speak.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted June 10, 2014

    slow moving book

    I was excited to read this book but it was so slow moving I did not even finish it.

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    Posted August 25, 2010

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