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My Family and Other Saints Hardcover – November 30, 2007


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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 246 pages
  • Publisher: University Of Chicago Press; 1 edition (November 30, 2007)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0226568202
  • ISBN-13: 978-0226568201
  • Product Dimensions: 9.1 x 6.3 x 0.8 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.6 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (17 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #2,058,792 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews

Review

"Gods, gurus, and eccentric relatives compete for primacy in Kirin Narayan's enchanting memoir of her childhood in Bombay."—William Grimes, New York Times
(William Grimes New York Times)

“A lovely book about the author's youth in Bombay, India. Her stable family is rattled when the author's older brother announces he’s off to seek wisdom from a guru. Their mother’s all for it; their father’s skeptical. The family home becomes a magnet for truth-seekers, and Narayan is there to affectionately document all of it.”
(Body + Soul)

"When the 16-year-old son and brother of a liberal urban family in Bombay becomes enamored of gurus and holy men, the family responds in various ways. The sari-wearing American-born mother, who loves all things Indian, embraces her son's quest. The Indian father does not trust anything that comes attached to religion or mysticism. Throughout, the house is continuously bursting with visiting Westerners seeking enlightenment. The memoir, written through the younger sister's eyes, is informed by her professional anthropologist's view: she brings the food, clothing, and colors of the unique period in the late 1960s to life. She is to be commended for her ability to re-create the era and populate it with a host of colorful characters: visitors, locals, the holy, and, of course, relatives, both American and Indian. They are supported by wonderful photos and her wry observations. A revealingly honest, humorous, and loving portrayal of unique times makes this a splendid read."
(Library Journal)

My Family and Other Saints echoes Gerald Durrell’s classic memoir, My Family and Other Animals, not only in its title, but in its wonderful humor and lyrical prose. Like Durrell, Kirin Narayan takes the reader to a fascinating world far from our own, and brings to life its myriad sights, sounds and smells, while revealing the profound cultural beliefs of its people. India is just the most complex character among a cast of characters—family members, gurus, hippies, and neighbors—all of whom I now count as old friends.”--Judith Barrington, author of Lifesaving: A Memoir and Writing the Memoir: From Truth to Art

(Judith Barrington)

"An engrossing account of a childhood spent with Indian gurus and their American disciples. Enlightenment and growing up are tossed together in the riotous and tender household presided over by Didi, Narayan, and an extended circle of family and friends. Kirin Narayan's impressive gifts of memory, imagination, and storytelling  carry us into this unexpected world of 'crazy saints;' the journey is so much fun that it's hard to put the book down."

(Anna Lowenhaupt Tsing, author of In the Realm of the Diamond Queen)

"Kirin Narayan brings her detailed powers of observation and nuanced description, together with her insightful and humorous appreciation of human beings as quirky individuals and products of their cultures, to present us with a few years in the history of her own family. These are extraordinary years and an extraordinary family, and this delightful and unique memoir documents much more than growing up acutely observant in a turbulent household. It also brings to life an era now almost mythical, when American and European hippies and seekers poured into India looking for many kinds of experiences. I loved this book."
(Ann Grodzins Gold, Syracuse University)

"Narayan has created a portrait of [her family] that is realistic in its depiction of their flaws and foibles but generous and always loving. . . . Narayan . . . finds the wonder and joy in her family's journey and presents it to us with insight and grace."

(Debra Ginsberg Shelf Awareness)

About the Author

Kirin Narayan is the author of Storytellers, Saints, and Scoundrels, Mondays on the Dark Night of the Moon, and the novel Love, Stars, and All That. A former Guggenheim fellow, she is professor of anthropology at the University of Wisconsin–Madison.

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Customer Reviews

4.6 out of 5 stars
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I highly recommend it and look forward to her next work.
Henry J. Drewal
Also, I would have liked a glossary -- even just a short one -- of the many Indian words and phrases sprinkled throughout the text.
R. T. Highsmith
This is a great chronicle of the meeting of the US and India, in the Narayan family and in the larger culture.
Will Owen

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

8 of 8 people found the following review helpful By Art on January 17, 2008
Format: Hardcover
My Family and Other Saints is an account of the author's childhood in the suburbs of Bombay (Mumbai). Narayan has beautifully crafted her book and it is impossible to put down. One is touched by her compassion, humor and insights (anthropological and otherwise). The look at India in the 60's and early 70's is fascinating. I have lived in and visited India, but this revealed so much more about the country. I would recommend this book to any reader interested in family, India or riveting stories.
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4 of 4 people found the following review helpful By R. T. Highsmith on January 17, 2008
Format: Hardcover
I really enjoyed this book. I was a "hippie" myself back in the 60s and 70s, but, alas, never made it out of the Midwest. Still, I shared an interest in Eastern philosophies with much of my generation, and watched with fascination as many went abroad to study meditation in India.

Kirin Narayan's memoir of her childhood provides a very refreshing perspective on that era -- from the Indian side. The daughter of a spiritually skeptical Indian father and a spiritually adventurous American mother, Narayan's childhood family home in a beach community outside Bombay was quite literally a cultural crossroads.

As a sensitive adolescent who just wanted to be "normal," Narayan watched with ever-changing emotions as her many colorful Indian relatives interacted with the almost constant stream of bliss-seeking hippie tourists who sought out her family's home as a crash pad and her mother for advice on everything from renewing a visa to clearing their chakras. She tracks the course of her beloved older brother's spiritual growth, and his relationships with gurus who ended up becoming family friends (and well-known spiritual leaders).

There are many entertaining anecdotes and character sketches -- about her Indian grandmother who talks to her cow and always seems to be bumping into the spirits of dead gurus, about an artistic American grandmother who lives in a beach hut nearby, about her enlightenment-seeking brother Rahoul who teases young Kirin and makes little god-statues, about her mother's hopping from ashram to ashram in search of her own spiritual path. And not least about Kirin herself and her struggle to fashion her own identity in this mix of East and West, ancient and modern.
Read more ›
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful By Will Owen on January 17, 2008
Format: Hardcover
I found this a fascinating story, not just of India in the 60s, but of a family in a very extended sense. Narayan's biological family fills the pages of her memory, even though one of the most important characters, Rahoul, is almost always absent from the action being described. Other people, other saints, are critical members of the extended family, as are the urugs who come to India and through the Narayan household seeking their own brand of enlightenment. This is a great chronicle of the meeting of the US and India, in the Narayan family and in the larger culture. There is so much packed into this family chronicle that it's hard to remember until the very end that it is also the chronicle of a girlhood, the story and memories of a child who herself embodies that mid-century fusion of east and west. There is gentle humor, fun-poking, and a pervasive sense of sadness and loss that never overwhelms that feeling of promise and potential. It's an exquisite balancing act, one to be savored slowly. Once I began reading it, I wanted it never to end.
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful By a customer on January 17, 2008
Format: Hardcover
"My Family and Other Saints" is a riveting account of family life in India. Not only does Narayan bring to the reader a vivid world of real characters (complete with myriad charms, quirks and flaws), but she provides a window into the eclectic traffic of culture and the fascination with Indian spiritual traditions that characterized the decades of the 1960s and 70s. "My Family" is also the story of a young girl struggling to find her way in a family whose life is darkened by a father's addiction to alcohol. As a deeply affectionate but unsentimental portrait "My Family and Other Saints" cannot help but provoke readers to reflect on their own lives. And though the book centers on her family, the anthropological eye of Narayan is evident throughout, as her sharply drawn scenes provide fascinating glimpses into the world of middle-class India.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful By Henry J. Drewal on January 21, 2008
Format: Hardcover
I laughed and I cried, and sometimes I laughed till I cried. This book is an extraodinary piece of writing about both ordinary and exceptional individuals living together and apart through complex times -- shaped by their cultural surroundings as well as their inner lives. Narayan captures the complexities of character -- her colorful portraits ring clear and true. I was deeply moved by all the people I met on this journey with a family and through an era brought to life with sensitivity, humor, sadness, and passion. I highly recommend it and look forward to her next work.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful By sadie on October 12, 2008
Format: Paperback
This beautifully written memoir captures a very special time and place--India in the 1960s and 1970s--from the narrator's unique perspective as a child of an American mother and Indian father. Narayan depicts her coming of age in a colorful, unconventional yet troubled family, whose members are pulled apart by their individual searches for solace or enlightenment, and lovingly brought back together on these pages. The various characters come vividly off the page, as does India itself as one of them. Narayan is a gifted writer who has given us a gift of a memoir.
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