We Need More Stories like “Another Appalachia”
Being Indian-American was 80% of my personality.
Growing up in a place where most people don’t look like you, that part of your identity is magnified (for better or for worse). Fixating on differences is natural.
Imagine my excitement — then subsequent disappointment — when I saw other South-Asian Americans sharing their stories, but I didn’t quite relate to any of them. Until I read Neema Avashia’s book.
A first-gen, queer, Indian-American growing up in the Southern US
My interest was already piqued by the synopsis. While Avashia lives in Boston now, she spent her formative years in the American South in a small chemical plant town in West Virginia.
I don’t believe I’m the only Indian-American to grow up in the Southern US, but the diaspora in the US is centered around mid-sized to large cities. If people picture “South Asians in the US,” they’ll imagine places like Atlanta, San Franciso, or New York…not exactly a small town in Tennessee.
And while I’m not Gujurati or queer, Avashia’s collection of essays explores so many of the same thoughts and feelings I’ve had growing up.
Two poignant parts of her book include talking about her mixed feelings regarding the 2016 election and watching how it affected the people she loved that treated her kindly and as family.
Basketball instead of Bharatanatayam
There weren’t any Bharatanatayam classes, an Indian classical dance form, when Avashia was growing up. So her long oiled hair, plaited into a braid, made her stand out on the all-White, all boys basketball team at Cross Lanes Methodist Church coached by Mr. Bradford.
Most school kids remember their first go at team-sports. It’s an opportunity to try new things and make friends. For those of us like Avashia, it gives us a chance to have something in common with others.
“How do you assimilate into the dominant culture when your own culture is so invisible to…