Not Native by Murali Kamma

This is a review of “Not Native: Short Stories of Immigrant Life in an In-Between World” by Murali Kamma. Five stars!

What I found refreshing about the stories is that they are not about nostalgia and they are not ruminations on identity. Rather, the stories illuminate aspects of everyday lives, ranging from reconnecting with long-ago friends or acquaintances to coming to a new understanding of the old Indian society and the new American one.

“Holi Day in America” is a heartwarming story that portrays a low-key yet deep friendship between Rohan, a young newly arrived man, and David a casual friend of his who, knowing about the Holi festival, offers to celebrate it with him. An exchange between Rohan and David, about their differing views of America’s promise of opportunity, is a gem. Only too aware of America’s underbelly, David is jaded. But Rohan’s can-do spirit is a distillation of the hope with which millions continue to dream of America.

… Being a recent immigrant, the path is more challenging for me, David. I have to pay my dues — at least, that’s how I see it. I made a conscious decision to come here, so I accept that. I was willing to give up certain advantages, because I knew there would be other advantages.

“Fragments of Glass” is a notable story as it delves into India’s caste system and the progress that is possible when individuals take it upon themselves to act with intention to challenge the system. Finally, “Brahms in the Land of Brahma” is about a relationship that develops between an American working in a high-tech city and his Indian host.

In summary, the stories in Not Native are quiet and gentle. But, they are far from weightless. I think immigrants of all stripes will relate to these stories. So will others who are curious to understand the inner lives of the immigrants who live unobtrusively among them with their stories tucked quietly inside.

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