“Brown White Black: An American Family at the Intersection of Race, Gender, Sexuality, and Religion” by Nishta J. Mehra— Motherhood, Marriage, Love and Acceptance

Mehra, Nishta J. “Brown White Black: An American Family at the Intersection of Race, Gender, Sexuality, and Religion”, Picador, 2019.

Motherhood, Marriage, Love, and Acceptance

Amos Lassen

We live in a world where definitions are constantly changing and the word that seems to change what it means the most is “family”. With marriage equality in place, we see families that look nothing like the nuclear family of not so long ago.

“Brown White Black” is a look of Nishta J. Mehra’s family through a collection of essays. Her wife, Jill, is white; her adopted child, Shiv, is black; and they share experiences dealing with America’s rigid ideas of race, gender, and sexuality. She writes about her family’s daily struggle to find or to make space for themselves in the era of racial intolerance and stereotypes. In doing so, Mehra personalizes some of America’s most fraught issues. She writes candidly about her efforts to protect and shelter Shiv from racial slurs on the playground and from intrusive questions by strangers while educating him about the realities and dangers of being black in America. In other essays, she writes about growing up in the racially polarized city of Memphis; coming out as queer; being an adoptive mother who is brown; and what it’s like to be constantly confronted by people’s confusion, concern, and expectations about her child and her family.” With great passion, she argues for a more nuanced and compassionate understanding of what is identity and family. 

I thoroughly enjoyed the read but I can certainly see where others might have trouble with what is here and those are the people who will never read this anyway. Here is a look at a loving family through some of the most highly charged conversations in our culture. Topics covered include race, gender, sexuality, parenthood, marriage, and love and we are challenged  to look at our own understanding of identity and family. Mehra is a teacher and the lesbian daughter of Indian immigrants with an interracial family and shares it all insightfully and gives us all something to think about. She includes the immigrant experience, race relations, sexuality, adoption, parenthood, and more. This is a strong statement about the importance of moving beyond gender and racial barriers toward a more inclusive view of family life. Mehra writes beautifully, clearly, concisely and directly.

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