Happy Thanksgiving: My Favorite Immigrant Stories

middlesex-a-novel-oprahs-book-clubGratitude is part of my daily routine, but on Thanksgiving and this year, on a Thanksgiving that coincides with Hanukkah, I’m especially grateful for my family history. Several generations back, my ancestors left lives and livelihoods behind for a better deal in America. I’m grateful for that, because between the cossacks’ pogroms and Hitler, who knows if I’d even be around to write these words?

Perhaps that’s why I find immigrant stories so compelling. Here are a few of my favorites. Continue reading

I Will NOT Go The F**k to Sleep by Richard Crasta – A Review

I had the pleasure of meeting Richard Crasta years ago at a networking event, and if not for that meeting (because he’s mainly been published in India), I might have lost out on the experience of his clever wordplay and the playful but biting satire that peppers his writing. Immediately I purchased a copy of his first and most well known book, “The Revised Kama Sutra: A Novel of Colonialism and Desire.” (Buy it if you can.)

Through an accident of the Internet, our paths crossed again, though we are now living on opposite sides of the globe. And through the magic of electronic publishing, I was able to catch up on the books that I missed.

The one that caught my eye first was a book of essays titled, I Will NOT Go the F**k To Sleep, the title meant to be a satire on the recent and popular Adam Mansbach children’s book that’s more for parents, Go the F**k to Sleep. It is, indeed, the title of the first essay in this book, a Stewie Griffin-meets-Bart Simpson take on this command from the child’s point of view. The humor continues, some essays with a political bite, some with inspired silliness, but thoroughly enjoyable.

For instance, one essay, “What You Don’t Know about Bangaloring Could Hurt You,” is a wisecracking look at outsourced American jobs from India’s point of view. Another, “On The Trail of Sex in Kama-Land,” got him censored in his homeland. Crasta also includes an especially funny excerpt from The Revised Kama Sutra, in which our hero, at a tender age and with a repressed upbringing, is disturbed to discover the assertiveness of his male appendage. “A Tale of Two Weddings” puts a satiric lens on the stereotypes many people have about Indian culture.

Crasta is funny, yes, sometimes with a Pythonesque goofiness, but often with an irreverent poke in the eye to those in power. But all good satirists, from Jonathan Swift and Mark Twain to Christopher Buckley and Bill Maher, know that humor is the spoonful of sugar that makes the medicine go down. Or, as C. K. Chesterton put it, “Humor can get in under the door while seriousness is still fumbling at the handle.”

Or, as Crasta writes in his introduction, “The king’s jester had no sacred cows, and was the only one who could laugh at the king and not pay for it with his life–why? Because to prevent a society from going insane, it needs a band of men and women who have carte blanche, carte blanche to point out that the Emperor is not wearing any clothes, or even that black polka dots on his polka dot pants are not dots but holes.”