Today’s Armchair BEA discussion topic is “Beyond the Borders”, reading out of your comfort zone, your home country or culture and travel the world through books. Here’s the writing prompt:
It’s time to step outside your comfort zone, outside your borders, or outside of your own country or culture. Tell us about the books that transported you to a different world, taught you about a different culture, and/or helped you step into the shoes of someone different from you. What impacted you the most about this book? What books would you recommend to others who are ready or not ready to step over the line? In essence, let’s start the conversation about diversity and keep it going!
My Comfort Zone and Culture
My comfort zone and culture is always a sensitive subject. My parents are Indian immigrants but I was born and raised in America. I look Indian (or to some who try to speak Spanish to me, Hispanic) but I sound, act and have been educated in America. I love Indian food but I don’t know how to cook it. I can understand our Indian dialect, but can’t speak it. I love the beauty, reverence and respect our Hindu ceremonies exhibit, but had no idea what was being said by the priest or the more detailed meaning behind the rituals. My Indian friends went to Indian classical dance and religion classes growing up, and I felt uncomfortable wearing a sari for my first and only time.
As a kid, I felt neither traditionally Indian nor traditionally American. And as an adult, when someone asks “Where are you from?”, I honestly never know whether they mean where I live now, where I grew up or my Indian heritage. Somehow I always answer it in the way the person asking did not intend. Now, my husband is of Hispanic heritage and I cook more Hispanic food and celebrate their holiday and wedding traditions. Perhaps I am culturally confused.
Taking My Cultural Identity into my Own Hands
I could give you the long answer but I will spare you the details. I don’t think with the severity of my Rheumatoid Arthritis, an autoimmune illness, I would be able to endure a trip to India again. It breaks my heart that 3 of my grandparents never met their great-grandsons but I am more fearful of the health repercussions a trip to a Third World country would take on me.
So I stopped the pity party and decided instead to immerse myself in Indian geography and culture through books. Since starting the Around the World in 80 Books Reading Challenge, I’ve read 4 books set in India and thoroughly enjoyed them. The books helped unlock some wonderful memories of my trip to India as a teenager. Each one impacted me in completely different ways, tears of joy, heartache and awe and in Karma Gone Bad, somewhat offended.
These books have encouraged me to have conversations about India with my kids and they are excited to go when they are older. We borrow books about India and Hinduism for them too, we talk about what they learn about India in school, we ask my parents questions, and it all helps connect me to my heritage.
Taking On a New Challenge
Since I signed up for the Around the World in 80 Books Reading Challenge, the challenge host seems to have removed the blog. So I am in the process of creating a new Travel the World Through Books Reading Challenge to similarly encourage readers to travel the world through books. I want to further encourage readers to pick a book that teaches them about a culture different than their own. Of all the reading I have done, I enjoy most getting immersed in another culture and celebrating its people, land and food! To correct our misconceptions about a culture we think is so different, and realize the similarities. What sets us apart and what brings us together.
If you are interested in joining me on this challenge, leave me a comment and let me know. I’m excited to get it ready and launch before July 1st! And if you have any catchier names, I could use some ideas, Around the World in 80 Books was a good one. Make sure to subscribe by email so you don’t miss the launch.