- Hardcover: 384 pages
- Publisher: Penguin Press HC, The (July 31, 2008)
- Language: English
- ISBN-10: 159420151X
- ISBN-13: 978-1594201516
- Product Dimensions: 6.4 x 1.3 x 9.6 inches
- Shipping Weight: 1.2 pounds
- Average Customer Review: 65 customer reviews
- Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,430,566 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
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The Girl from Foreign: A Search for Shipwrecked Ancestors, Forgotten Histories, and a Sense of Home Hardcover – July 31, 2008
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From Publishers Weekly
Starred Review. Who is Rachel Jacobs? the 13-year-old asks her Muslim grandmother Rahat Siddiqi; that, Nana tells her, was my name before I was married. Thus does a grandmother's stunning reply and a granddaughter's promise to learn about her ancestors set Shepard's three voyages of discovery in motion: her grandmother's history; the story of the Bene Israel (one of the lost tribes of Israel that, having sailed from Israel two millennia ago, crashed on the Konkan coast in India; and her own self-discovery (her mother was Muslim, her father Christian, and her grand mother Jewish). Shepard balances all three journeys with dexterity as she spends her Fulbright year, with an old hand-drawn map and her grandmother's family tree, unraveling the mysteries of Nana's past while visiting and photographing the grand and minuscule synagogues in Bombay and on the Konkan Coast. A filmmaker, Shepard writes with a lively sense of pacing (her year proceeds chronologically, interspersed with well-placed flashbacks) and a keen sense of character (getting to know her friend, escort and fellow filmmaker Rekhev as gradually as she does, or capturing the Muslim baker who makes the only authentic challah in Bombay in a few strokes). Shepard's story is entertaining and instructive, inquiring and visionary. (Aug.)
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From The New Yorker
September 8, 2008
In this elegantly crafted memoir, the author sets out to fulfill her grandmother's dying wish that she learn about her heritage. Her grandmother grew up among the Bene Israel, a small Jewish community in India; when she married a Muslim, she left Judaism and, eventually, India, and adopted the name Rahat Siddiqi. Shepard herself is the product of a mixed marriage: her mother is Pakistani and Muslim, her father American and Christian. After receiving a Fulbright, she left her life in the U.S. to document the remaining Indian Jews, whose numbers have steadily dwindled as many emigrate to Israel. Shepard's eagerness to maintain narrative tension leads to occasional artificiality, but her writing is vivid and her meditations on heritage and grief are moving.
Top customer reviews
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Shepard's physical journey is one of rich backdrops and exotic Indian locales, all which Shepard paints beautifully. A particularly vivid scene of traveling by train in a world where cars are segregated by sex becomes a haunting look at what it means to be a stranger in a strange land. We ache for the mistakes Shepard makes as an American abroad.
Still more exquisite is Shepard's other journey. It is one luxuriously mapped out inner voyage that asks her to question her identity and her place in the world. Her identity is itself another math problem. Before she discovers her Indian Jewish roots, she considers herself: "Half Pakistani, half American. Half Muslim, half Christian. Half-half." But just where does this "half-half," as she calls it, belong?
The insights on the arrival of the jews on the Konkan coast is good.