The Girl from Foreign: A Search for Shipwrecked Ancestors, Forgotten Histories, and a Sense of Home
Review by Andrea Pflaumer
Sadia Shepard’s remarkable memoir The Girl from Foreign is as satisfying for the personal mysteries it solves as it is unsettling for the larger geo-political questions it raises. Born in Denver, the daughter of an American Christian father and a Pakistani Muslim mother, Shepard embraces her multicultural identity (‘it’s all one God,’) in a country that welcomes hyphenation. But as a young woman embarking on a writing career she learns that her maternal grandmother, who lived with and was an important part of the family during Shepard’s formative years, was not originally from Pakistan nor was she Muslim. She was, in fact, born into the Bene Israel community of Western India as Rachel Jacobs. In her grandmother’s final years she asks Shepard to ‘tell my story,’ launching the young woman on an arduous physical and emotional journey to discover her grandmother’s roots, a voyage that became one of self-discovery as well.