Title: The Girl From Foreign
Author: Sadia Shepard
Release Date: July 31, 2008
Genre: Memoir, Non-Fiction
Rating: 4.5 out of 5
Sadia Shepard is the daughter of a Muslim woman from India and a Protestant man from the United States. Growing up in Boston, she was always caught between two worlds – until, one day, she discovered that there was a third to add to the mix. Her grandmother was one of the Bene Israel, which was a community of Jews living in India that shipwrecked there over two thousand years ago.
On her grandmother’s death bed, Sadia promises her that she’ll return to India to discover her roots and get to know her grandmother’s country. While there, she decides to document the Bene Israel community, but gets much more than she bargained for in the process. Through her exploration of her heritage, Sadia learns about her history, her cultural identity, and what it means to really belong.
The Girl From Foreign is the story of one woman’s amazing journey, both physically and emotionally. At the beginning of this book, Sadia is unsure of herself and her mission. She doesn’t know what she’s going to do in India or what she wants from the Bene Israel community. All she is confident of is that she made a promise to her grandmother and she is going to keep it. It’s wonderful to accompany her through this book and watch Sadia grow as a person as she spends more and more time in India.
Additionally, it’s fascinating to read about Sadia’s exploration of the different cultures that are a part of her – she has ties to America, India, Pakistan, and Israel. She is Christian, Jewish, and Muslim. The Girl From Foreign is a beautiful tribute to the impact of culture. It’s also a moving look at the ways many different nationalities and religions can coexist peacefully within one person. It gives the entire book a very hopeful tone.
The discussion of the Bene Israel community in The Girl From Foreign was absolutely captivating. I’ve never heard of this group of people who consider themselves the remnants of one of the lost tribes of Israel. The only complaint I had about the book was that I would have loved to learn more about their history. It’s never a bad thing when the strongest criticism of a book is that the reader wants more from the author!
Sadia Shepard did an incredible job of putting a human face on all of the characters, communities, and cultures she discusses in The Girl From Foreign. As a result, the reader gets personally involved in her journey. Though the book does slow down in the middle, that connection keeps the reader very interested in the story and in what conclusions Sadia comes to about her heritage and her decisions about how to portray the Bene Israel community.
The Girl From Foreign is a wonderful memoir of travel, introspection, and self-discovery. This is a book I highly recommend, especially to those who like a taste of culture in their reads – it does not disappoint!