Title: On the Outside Looking Indian: How My Second Childhood Changed My Life
Author: Rupinder Gill
Release Date: May 1, 2012
Publisher: Riverhead Trade
Genre: Memoir, Non-Fiction, Cultural (South Asian)
Rating: 4.5 out of 5
Rupinder Gill was raised by hardworking Indian parents in Canada along with her sisters, and while she had a good life, she can’t help but feel that she missed out on childhood. After all, she never went to camp, attended extracurricular activities, or went to Disney World. Much of her childhood was spent in front of the TV rather than experiencing what it was to be a kid, and now, Rupinder wants to recapture some of those childhood memories by making new ones.
Children of immigrants often look at the “typical” American childhood with envy, and Rupinder Gill is no exception. Her parents weren’t well off, so they couldn’t pay for the lessons that so many others received, and their overprotectiveness ensured that she was at home much of the time, rather than hanging out with friends. While I wasn’t raised in a household like Rupinder’s (I think I participated in every type of extracurricular activity at some point – tennis, soccer, ballet, ice skating, gymnastics, piano, just to name a few – before we collectively accepted that my talents were in other places, like reading quietly), I still understood her desire to have a “normal” childhood. It’s not something that’s limited by culture or religion, and as a result On the Outside Looking Indian is very relatable.
Not only that, but Rupinder Gill’s writing style is an absolute riot. I found myself laughing out loud over and over again at her snarky wit. She makes fun of herself and her family, but there is no meanness in her words or tone. She makes it clear that she loves and respects her parents, yet there is still hilarity to be found in the way she was brought up. Gill’s amusing anecdotes and completely entertaining way of telling stories really make On the Outside Looking Indian a fun, engaging read.
Throughout On the Outside Looking Indian, Gill searches for experiences that she didn’t have during childhood, things that might make her feel more complete. She takes tap dancing lessons, searches for an adult camp experience, and even tests the waters of visiting Disney World. Readers will really be able to sympathize with her – after all, there isn’t a person out there that doesn’t wish they’d had the opportunity to do something differently while they were growing up.
The light tone of On the Outside Looking Indian is really what clinches it. Gill doesn’t pretend that the lack of these experiences is some sort of tragedy, and she jokes constantly through the memoir. It makes it a fun read that doesn’t take itself too seriously, yet it still manages to be contemplative, as Gill ponders the direction her life will take. If you’re looking for a breezy non-fiction read that will entertain you from beginning to end, this is the book to pick up.