Mumbai New York Scranton: A Memoir

Overview

An extraordinarily moving memoir from an iconoclastic new talent—an artist, cook, and illustrator whose adventures at home and abroad reveal the importance of living life with your eyes wide open.

Best known for her witty illustrations, and as a cook beside her mischievous father in her family’s legendary Manhattan restaurant, in Mumbai New York Scranton, Tamara Shopsin offers a brilliantly inventive, spare, and elegant chronicle of a year in her life characterized by ...

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Mumbai New York Scranton: A Memoir

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Overview

An extraordinarily moving memoir from an iconoclastic new talent—an artist, cook, and illustrator whose adventures at home and abroad reveal the importance of living life with your eyes wide open.

Best known for her witty illustrations, and as a cook beside her mischievous father in her family’s legendary Manhattan restaurant, in Mumbai New York Scranton, Tamara Shopsin offers a brilliantly inventive, spare, and elegant chronicle of a year in her life characterized by impermanence. In a refreshingly original voice alternating between tender and brazen, Shopsin recounts a trip to the Far East with her sidekick husband and the harrowing adventure that unfolds when she comes home. Entire worlds, deep relationships, and indelible experiences are portrayed in Shopsin’s deceptively simple and sparse language and drawings.

Blending humor, love, suspense—and featuring photographs by Jason Fulford—Mumbai New York Scranton inspires a kaleidoscope of emotions. Shopsin’s surprising and affecting tale will keep you on the edge of your seat.

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Editorial Reviews

The New York Times Book Review - Benjamin Anastas
Some memoirs are about travel. Others are about surviving a bigger-than-life family. Many of them are about illness, and the rare memoir gives readers a private glimpse of a marriage that's also a creative partnership. Just like one of the fabled items from her father's menu…Shopsin's memoir does them all.
Publishers Weekly
Graphic designer, illustrator and short-order cook Shopsin can now add author to her résumé. The author chronicles a bumpy year in her life with brisk, brief paragraphs: her trip with her husband to India; her work as a short-order cook in the family restaurant, Shopsin’s, in Manhattan; the couple’s life in Scranton, Pa., as freelancer designers; and weathering a serious illness. Diarylike entries are punctuated by Shopsin’s spare drawings and her husband’s photographs. During their trip to India, Shopsin seemed to be suffering with a nasty stomach ailment. Sick and stuck in the bathroom, Shopsin writes she couldn’t stop puking, yet she nevertheless observes that the elaborate embroidered hot water bottle covers provided by hotel staff remind her of props from Little Women. On her father’s penmanship: “My dad used to handwrite the specials on a dry erase board at our restaurant. He would add and delete items weekly with nail polish remover. I still think of his handwriting as smudged capital letters.” Initially Shopsin’s style is a bit jarring, as if you were reading idle jottings lifted haphazardly from a journal. What could have become merely an amalgamation of keen observations, Shopsin has instead spun into a charming, rewarding, and unusual narrative. (Mar.)
CampusCircle
"[Shopsin's] wholly original work defies categorization. Brimming with observations, details, snippets of conversations and photographs by her husband, Jason Fulford, Mumbai New York Scranton is funny, intimate and dear. Shopsin has a laser-like focus for specificity...[her] eye for detail turns the mundane into the sublime and make you want to partake of any adventure she might embark on."
New York Times Book Review
"Some memoirs are about travel. Others are about surviving a bigger-than-life family. Many of them are about illness, and the rare memoir gives readers a private glimpse of a marriage that's also a creative partnership. Just like one of the fabled items from her father's menu...Shopsin's memoir does them all. Her spare, present-tense narration is interspersed with her drawings...and Fulford's eerily composed photographs...building a larger world through association. Text and image work together in a marriage of complements. Reading the memoir feels like eavesdropping on Shopsin and Fulford as they collaborate."
Shelf Awareness
"Mumbai New York Scranton is a fresh, engaging memoir...written in an episodic, stream-of-consciousness style. [Shopsin's] descriptions of life with [her husband] Jason are especially sweet and affecting, while what unfolds after their return to New York is harrowing and tense. Her portrayal of her quirky family, is vivid and loving; as an urban social history spanning the generations, it is sheer pleasure. A terrific and winning memoir, a love letter to a city and a family. Shopsin can add writing to her list of talents along with drawing, crafting, cooking and her egg-cracking prowess."
From the Publisher
"I've been trying to eat my way through Shopsin's menu and realize it's going to be a lifetime endeavor. Now Tamara, Kenny Shopsin’s daughter, has written a sprawling travel memoir that ranges all over the planet and which I finished the same day I started reading. Slinging simple declarative sentences that hide sounding depths, and speaking in a quiet voice that you realize too late is the hum of a jet engine, you'll race to Mumbai and back before you have time to process the ride. But oh man will the memory linger."

“Shopsin tells us this story in a terse, true manner. A beautifully illustrated memoir full of love, with no bullsh*t.”

“Sometimes a friend gives you a piece of writing and you are terrified to read it because what if it turns out your friend is a terrible writer? This was a particular concern with Tamara Shopsin, for not only is she a friend, but a brilliant designer, illustrator, cartoonist, and short order cook whose work in all these areas have long delighted and inspired me. So I am very relieved to report that MUMBAI NEW YORK SCRANTON is as virtuosic as her pancakes, which is to say: perfect, meaningful, and astonishing.”

“Tamara Shopsin writes like she illustrates—wry and succinct, with judiciously placed punch. She scatters Hansel and Gretel-style crumbs of fantastic, compelling memoir in woods of travelogue. Mumbai, New York, Scranton is muscular, efficient, understated, and surprising.”

"This (true) story is as dramatic as they come, complete with twin sister, eccentric father and the love of a good man. But because Shopsin is so fundamentally uninterested in being flashy, she gets our attention by not trying to get our attention. Mumbai New York Scranton gathers momentum secretly, accruing emotion entirely through food, art, furniture and the achingly mundane details that any survivor will recognize. Could not. Put. It down."

"A charming, rewarding,and unusual narrative."

"Shopsin’s dry, staccato sentences are very funny. Her irreverent illustrations and pithy, whimsical writing complement each other perfectly as [she] recounts details that… together limn a creative, playful, wry and resourceful woman in a crisis. Shopsin’s compelling and unconventional memoir is terrifying until you realize that, since she’s writing about it, there has to be a happy ending."

"[Shopsin's] wholly original work defies categorization. Brimming with observations, details, snippets of conversations and photographs by her husband, Jason Fulford, Mumbai New York Scranton is funny, intimate and dear. Shopsin has a laser-like focus for specificity...[her] eye for detail turns the mundane into the sublime and make you want to partake of any adventure she might embark on."

"Some memoirs are about travel. Others are about surviving a bigger-than-life family. Many of them are about illness, and the rare memoir gives readers a private glimpse of a marriage that's also a creative partnership. Just like one of the fabled items from her father's menu...Shopsin's memoir does them all. Her spare, present-tense narration is interspersed with her drawings...and Fulford's eerily composed photographs...building a larger world through association. Text and image work together in a marriage of complements. Reading the memoir feels like eavesdropping on Shopsin and Fulford as they collaborate."

"Mumbai New York Scranton is a fresh, engaging memoir...written in an episodic, stream-of-consciousness style. [Shopsin's] descriptions of life with [her husband] Jason are especially sweet and affecting, while what unfolds after their return to New York is harrowing and tense. Her portrayal of her quirky family, is vivid and loving; as an urban social history spanning the generations, it is sheer pleasure. A terrific and winning memoir, a love letter to a city and a family. Shopsin can add writing to her list of talents along with drawing, crafting, cooking and her egg-cracking prowess."

author of Zombie, Spaceship, Wasteland - Patton Oswalt
"I've been trying to eat my way through Shopsin's menu and realize it's going to be a lifetime endeavor. Now Tamara, Kenny Shopsin’s daughter, has written a sprawling travel memoir that ranges all over the planet and which I finished the same day I started reading. Slinging simple declarative sentences that hide sounding depths, and speaking in a quiet voice that you realize too late is the hum of a jet engine, you'll race to Mumbai and back before you have time to process the ride. But oh man will the memory linger."
Maira Kalman
“Shopsin tells us this story in a terse, true manner. A beautifully illustrated memoir full of love, with no bullsh*t.”
John Hodgman
“Sometimes a friend gives you a piece of writing and you are terrified to read it because what if it turns out your friend is a terrible writer? This was a particular concern with Tamara Shopsin, for not only is she a friend, but a brilliant designer, illustrator, cartoonist, and short order cook whose work in all these areas have long delighted and inspired me. So I am very relieved to report that MUMBAI NEW YORK SCRANTON is as virtuosic as her pancakes, which is to say: perfect, meaningful, and astonishing.”
author of Blood, Bones and Butter - Gabrielle Hamilton
“Tamara Shopsin writes like she illustrates—wry and succinct, with judiciously placed punch. She scatters Hansel and Gretel-style crumbs of fantastic, compelling memoir in woods of travelogue. Mumbai, New York, Scranton is muscular, efficient, understated, and surprising.”
author of No One Belongs Here More Than You and It Chooses You - Miranda July
"This (true) story is as dramatic as they come, complete with twin sister, eccentric father and the love of a good man. But because Shopsin is so fundamentally uninterested in being flashy, she gets our attention by not trying to get our attention. Mumbai New York Scranton gathers momentum secretly, accruing emotion entirely through food, art, furniture and the achingly mundane details that any survivor will recognize. Could not. Put. It down."
Booklist
"Shopsin’s dry, staccato sentences are very funny. Her irreverent illustrations and pithy, whimsical writing complement each other perfectly as [she] recounts details that… together limn a creative, playful, wry and resourceful woman in a crisis. Shopsin’s compelling and unconventional memoir is terrifying until you realize that, since she’s writing about it, there has to be a happy ending."
Maira Kalman

“Shopsin tells us this story in a terse, true manner. A beautifully illustrated memoir full of love, with no bullsh*t.”
John Hodgman

“Sometimes a friend gives you a piece of writing and you are terrified to read it because what if it turns out your friend is a terrible writer? This was a particular concern with Tamara Shopsin, for not only is she a friend, but a brilliant designer, illustrator, cartoonist, and short order cook whose work in all these areas have long delighted and inspired me. So I am very relieved to report that MUMBAI NEW YORK SCRANTON is as virtuosic as her pancakes, which is to say: perfect, meaningful, and astonishing.”
Booklist
"Shopsin’s dry, staccato sentences are very funny. Her irreverent illustrations and pithy, whimsical writing complement each other perfectly as [she] recounts details that… together limn a creative, playful, wry and resourceful woman in a crisis. Shopsin’s compelling and unconventional memoir is terrifying until you realize that, since she’s writing about it, there has to be a happy ending.
Kirkus Reviews
Graphic designer and illustrator Shopsin (C'est le Pied II, 2009, etc.) delivers a terse account of a visit to India and her work as a freelance artist, with asides on her marriage, novelties business and family's restaurant. As a traveler abroad, the author is a bit frail--always tired, always sick, often scared. Many readers may find her incessant whining and timidity irritating, until the discovery of what might have induced her frequent bouts of nausea and unsteadiness of foot: a brain tumor. But apart from the impulse to wish her a full recovery and admiration for her genuine courage during the ordeal, this has no bearing, after the fact, on the writing. Even if the disjointed narrative is meant to reflect the effects of the tumor on her state of mind, readers will still note the book's many shortcomings. The memoir is rambling and unfocused, offering 132 pages on her experiences in India yet no concrete take on the country or culture save for impressions of chaos. Readers may enjoy the story to the extent that they favor the author's odd marriage of clipped sentences and stream-of-consciousness style (with too many meandering eddies), yet it suggests that Shopsin simply wrote down whatever popped into her head. The book is freighted with trivialities and pointless digressions, and if there is the occasional arresting observation or fleck of wit, it's buried beneath an avalanche of irrelevancies. Punctuated with photographs that barely qualify as snapshots, it's a 288-page book with half as much content, given the curious "open" typography and page breaks. Some will find the approach whimsical, others superficial and undisciplined. A brisk but slapdash, unrewarding journey.
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9781451687415
  • Publisher: Scribner
  • Publication date: 3/12/2013
  • Pages: 276
  • Sales rank: 882,247
  • Product dimensions: 8.40 (w) x 5.80 (h) x 1.10 (d)

Meet the Author

Tamara Shopsin is a graphic designer and illustrator whose work has been featured in The New York Times, Good, Time, Wired, and Newsweek. She has designed book jackets for authors including Jorge Luis Borges, Charles Lindbergh, and Vladimir Nabokov. Two volumes of her drawings have been published under the titles C’est le Pied! and C’est le Pied II. In her spare time she creates and sells novelties and cracks eggs at her family’s restaurant in New York, Shopsin’s. She is currently a 2012 fellow with the nonprofit Code for America.

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Read an Excerpt

Mumbai New York Scranton


  • The plan was if I didn’t see him, don’t leave the airport. That was it. That was the whole plan. It’s 1 a.m. The arrivals area is outside under a giant carport. The air smells like burning garbage. I see Jason so fast. It’s almost funny.

There are 100 unlicensed cabdrivers waiting for Jason and me to finish kissing. The cabdrivers are sad now, Jason leads us to a little desk out of the way where he prepays for our taxi.

A few of the drivers follow us. They leave when we reach the prepaid parking area. There are rows of modern and vintage taxis. “I hope we get an old one!” I say.

Our cab is not old or new. The interior looks as if an airplane seat from 1980 has exploded. It is upholstered in a crazy patterned fabric everywhere, even the ceiling. I love it.

On the way out our driver stops at the airport gate. He gets out and goes into a little booth. Two boys come up to the car window one on each side. They put their hands out. Jason and I shake our heads no.

I’ve heard about Americans who go to India and flip out. They give away all they have with them, take out the max from the ATM, and return home changed forever.

The boys just stand there looking at us with wide eyes. They won’t leave. I whisper to Jason asking what we should do. “Roll up the window,” he says as he rolls his up quick. I follow his lead but my boy sticks his hand on the glass.

The window closes by a hand-turned crank. I can feel the skinny boy pushing down. I’m playing chicken in the saddest James Dean movie ever.

I continue to roll up the window and am about to squish his fingers when he yanks them out. Our driver returns.

The side of the road is lined with crowded shantytowns. Jason holds my hand and suggests I don’t look out the window. Jason has wanted to show me India since the first time we met. My sister didn’t say don’t go. If she had, I would never have come. But Minda made it clear she didn’t want me here. She’s afraid I’m too fragile for India, that I will end up shitting chocolate milk and come home weighing eighty-seven pounds.

There are no streetlights. I’m frightened. Jason asks the driver why he has turned off the main road. The driver says it is a shortcut. Jason tells him we would rather stay on big roads.

 

The Grand Hotel

The hotel elevator sings a song when the doors open. Our room is on the top floor. I open the desk’s drawer and paw the turquoise and purple stationery with 1960s typography.

Jason has bought me oranges. I eat them all right away.

I take a shower, careful to keep my mouth shut and puffed full of air. I brush my teeth using bottled water. Even wash the toothbrush off with it.

A travel doctor told us never to drink the tap water here. He also prescribed five hundred dollars’ worth of medicine to bring. I filled the prescription uptown near his office. The pharmacy gave me four complimentary tote bags. Really nice ones with a lining.

Jason turns off the lights. He tells me there are more oranges in the minifridge for when I wake up in the middle of the night hungry and jet-lagged.

In the middle of the night I wake up and eat all the oranges.

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