Non-fiction, essays. 241 pages. Penguin Random House, Doubleday Canada.
Goodreads Rate: 5/5
Synopsis: “In One Day We’ll All Be Dead and None of This Will Matter, Scaachi deploys her razor-sharp humor to share her fears, outrages and mortifying experiences as an outsider growing up in Canada. Her subjects range from shaving her knuckles in grade school, to a shopping trip gone horribly awry, to dealing with internet trolls, to feeling out of place at an Indian wedding (as an Indian woman), to parsing the trajectory of fears and anxieties that pressed upon her immigrant parents and bled down a generation. Alongside these personal stories are pointed observations about life as a woman of colour, where every aspect of her appearance is open for critique, derision or outright scorn. Where strict gender rules bind in both Western and Indian cultures, forcing her to confront questions about gender dynamics, racial tensions, ethnic stereotypes and her father’s creeping mortality–all as she tries to find her feet in the world.
With a clear eye and biting wit, Scaachi Koul explores the absurdity of a life steeped in misery. And through these intimate, wise and laugh-out-loud funny dispatches, a portrait of a bright new literary voice emerges.”
Let’s begin this review by stating the burning feeling I have in my chest after closing this book: all of it matters. Every single word. Which is why the title of the book alone is just so clever; disregard the crossed off words on the title and you’ll see one day this will matter (and I say today is the day, folks). I will admit I am very likely the walking and breathing persona of the target audience for this book; at worst, I get bumped by other Indian Canadian young women, but I digress. As a daily reader, it’s not always I find books that really stand out and leave a mark on me. Those are the ones I will likely buy as gifts for all of my friends and subconsciously convince them to buy as soon as possible. So far it has worked once for this book.
Scaachi Koul writes in an incredibly witty and intelligent manner while putting into simple terms the complex emotions and dilemmas experienced by children of immigrants. The education and career expectations, the dynamics of a family stretched over continents, understanding where home is and how much different life could have been without this diaspora.
Koul digs deeper and connects these feelings and internal conflicts over one’s identity with the expectations of modern society in the search for a “trendy” take on diversity. By far, the most relatable and honest comment she makes on being a person of color in the “friendly” and “welcoming” Canada (both in Calgary growing up and as a young adult in Toronto) made me actually say AHA! out loud (if you don’t want to spoil this incredible moment, skip the bolded paragraph below):
“I’m not white, no, but I’m just close enough that I could be, and just far enough that you know I’m not. I can check off a diversity box for you and I don’t make you nervous – at least not on the surface. I’m the whole package!”
The best part of the book comes from Koul’s own writing and voice. She crafts and entwines each story of her past with the everyday situations most children of immigrants and their families experience. The essays connect past and present and take you on a journey through India and Canada, family gatherings, friendships made and lost along the way, intimate relationships and the acceptance and respect for one’s own body.
I would recommend this read to absolutely anyone just for the simple pleasure of Koul’s writing; it’s funny, relatable, genuine and so intelligent. She writes in a very unapologetic manner and I am so grateful for it; it sets the tone for a book that resembles a conversation with that one friend you have who tells you like it is. This book will especially touch the children of parents who made unthinkable sacrifices, left their lives and families behind, in search of better opportunities for their children. A #CanLit must read this year, without a doubt.