Here We Are

Author: Aarti Namdev Shahani

Published: October 1, 2019

Publisher: Celadon Books 

Where I picked up my book: From publisher (THANK YOU!!!)

Key Words: immigration, family dynamics, memoir  

My Rating: 3.75


My Thoughts:

I thoroughly enjoyed this book. I felt like I was given a front seat at a table that I have never sat at before…and I truly felt honored to be there. This is the story of the Shahani family, who came from India, through Casablanca, to Queens, New York. It’s a first hand, poignant account of what happens when undocumented people land on US soil, how undocumented people are treated, what is at risk for undocumented people, what happens to become documented, what life is like after you are documented, and everything in between. Yes, this is a first and account and is unique from this particular woman, but from what I hear and from what I have read, this story resonates with many families trying who are trying to call the United States home. We see the struggles, the pitfalls, the risks, the desires, the stresses, the intense fears…but we also see the hope, the laughter, the strength and the determination. Here We Are opened my eyes to not only what the process is like and specifically, how this family dealt with the good, the bad and the ugly of coming to America.

Here are some of my takeaways about our immigration system:

1. Immigrating to the US is not for the faint of heart and why in the world do we make it so complicated and corrupt?!

2. It seems like the story for every immigrant family is struggle. Struggling in their home country, and then struggling when they get to the US. As a country, we can do better to help with the transition. No one should have to live in cockroach infested homes, or a home that has a water leak causing toxic mold to grow because they are afraid to report it to a landlord who could report them as undocumented. No one should have to live with broken windows or broken heat in the middle of winter because they are nervous to set off someone’s radar and potentially get deported. It’s infuriating and we need a better system to support families that want to come to the US.

3. Our justice system is broken and corrupt and toxic, especially when dealing with immigrants. We can, and need to, do better!

4. In conclusion-WE CAN DO BETTER!

There is soooo much more in this memoir to talk about and discuss, but I don’t want to spoil it for anyone. I went in pretty blind and was completely taken by Shahani’s journey. This is an articulate memoir that is sure to infuriate you, make you cry, make you laugh, help you better understand the role of family in many cultures and ultimately…I hope, lead you to talk more about immigration and our role in it all. Our country is intrinsically tied to the immigration experience and I think this book will not only help give a voice to many immigrants who are currently voiceless, but help to shine a brighter light on a highly relevant topic of today. It’s an honor to have read Aarti Namdev Shahani’s story and I’m thankful for her courage to write it. I will definitely be on the lookout for anything else Shahani offers us!

bookishfolk…read instead.


The Bold World: A Memoir of Family and Transformation

Author: Jodie Patterson

Published: January 29, 2019

Publisher: Ballantine Books (THANK YOU!!!)

Where I picked up my book: Gifted from publisher

Key Words: non-fiction, LGBTQ+, diversity, family dynamics

My Rating: 4 stars


Synopsis (via Goodreads):

As an African American growing up on Manhattan’s Upper West Side in the 1970s, when neighborhoods defined people, Jodie Patterson learned early on to engage with her community for strength and comfort. But then in 2009 this mother of five had her world turned upside down. Realizing that her definition of community wasn’t wide enough for her own child’s needs, Patterson forced the world wide open.

In The Bold World, we witness a mother reshaping her attitudes and beliefs, as well as those of her community, to meet the needs of her transgender son, Penelope– and opening the minds of everyone in her family who absolutely, unequivocally refused to conform.

As we walk alongside Patterson on her journey, we meet the Southern women who came before her–the mother, grandmothers, and aunts who raised and fortified her, all the while challenging cultural norms and gender expectations. She shares her family’s history–particularly incidents within the Black community around sexism, racism, and civil rights. We learn about her children, who act as a vehicle for Jodie Patterson’s own growth and acceptance of her diverse family, and her experiences as a wife, mother, and, eventually, activist. The result is an intimate portrait and an exquisite study in identity, courage, and love. Patterson’s relentless drive to change the world will resonate with and inspire us all, reflecting our own individual strength and tenacity, our very real fears, and, most of all, our singular ability to transform despite the odds.

My Thoughts:

This book tackles so many things-from race, to gender, to parenting, to motherhood, to diversity, to living black in this world, to feminism…it touches on all of these ideas, and more, without being overwhelming or scattered. Instead, it beautifully shows what living in a society that isn’t necessarily set up for you, is like.  The first half of the book focuses of Jodie’s life and what foundation was set for her to stand upon. She talks about past relationships, what struggles occur for black families and people of color in this world, her relationship with her father, her jobs, the strong, black women that came before her, and how she grew up and became who she is today. It wasn’t an A to B to C sort of life she led (or leads for that matter) and that is beautifully made obvious for the reader. This made her feel relatable-she showed her truth and it was powerful.

The second half of the book is where Jodie focuses on her relationship with her child Penelope and what it is like to raise a child that is transgendered in this world, raise a family with a member that is transgender, and raise a world that loves our differences. I felt a deep sense of determination while reading this book. A determination to make this world a better place for every person living in it.  A determination to have every child feel loved and honored and welcomed in this world, BECAUSE of their differences, not despite of them.

Here’s where this book felt personal to me: In a nutshell, my parents couldn’t accept the fact that their child was gay. They stopped speaking to me the day I came out to them, and it has been the hardest thing that I’ve ever had to deal with in my life so far. This book showed me what it would have been like to have a mother that fought as hard as humanly possible for their child in a world that might not always be accepting. It showed me what it would have been like to have a father that, although he had a lot of questions and may have not felt completely comfortable with this new life that fell into his lap, was ready to put in the work and do his damn best for his child and family. It showed me what it would have been like to have siblings that acknowledge you for what you are, and love you unconditionally. It was the parenting that I could only have hoped for, and just because it didn’t happen in my life, it brought me SO SO much joy and happiness that it does for some others. If we can just spread this way of understanding and truly be an accepting, loving and supportive society to every member-we are 100% guaranteed to live in a better world.

I would highly recommend this book. It’s an important read and exactly what this world needs more of.

bookishfok…read instead.