The girl from foreign is a memoir. It is about the author’s search for lineage, her quest for ancestry. Tracing the lives of a nearly extinct Bene Israel community of Jews along the Konkan coast, Sadia tries to redeem her promise to her grandmother. In observing their customs and prayers, she tries to untangle the choices of religion she has to make. She feels at home in Boston, Karachi and Bombay. She feels at home whenever she can feel the presence of her grandmother. The book is almost in a documentary film style – abstract and slow. It doesn’t gain momentum and is painfully narrative.
When we choose to migrate to be in the presence of our community do we feel safer and more at home? Is it possible to live in peace with migrated lives? Do Bene Israel Jews feel ostracized or do they feel the urge to return to Israel, no matter how political and explosive the nation may be in? Does Sadia’s search for religion end? Does she clear the cobwebs of identity she is so desperately seeking?
Not all of these questions are answered but the book takes us through the Bene Israel way of life artfully. And that, I believe is the only highpoint of this memoir. Sadia’s unravelling, on the other hand, is not.