Independent Book Publisher’s Award
Asian/Pacific American Literature Award
Association for Asian American Studies Book Award
You Have Given Me a Country is a mixed-genre exploration of blurred borders, identity, and what it means to be bicultural. Combining memoir, history, and fiction, the book follows the paths of the author’s Irish-Catholic mother and Sindhi-Indian father on their journey towards each other and the biracial child they create. Vaswani’s second full-length work thematically echoes such books as The Color of Water, Running in the Family, or Motiba’s Tattoos, but isentirely unique in approach, voice, and story, The book reveals the self as a culmination of all that went before it, a new weave of two varied, yet ultimately universal backgrounds that spans continents, generations, languages, wars, and, at the center of it all, family.
With her fiercely beautiful memoir, You Have Given Me a Country, Neela Vaswani takes her place among other great innovators of form—Aleksandar Hemon, Maxine Hong Kingston, Michael Ondaatje—who write eloquently and ardently about the land of in-between. Vaswani’s extraordinary, inimitable book is part tender love letter to her Sindhi-Indian father and her Irish-Catholic mother and part razor-sharp, history-rich exploration of multicultural identity. What is most striking of all, perhaps, is the portrait that emerges of a keenly observant, big-hearted writer with talent to burn.
—Maud Casey, author of Genealogy
So beautifully written. A lucid, recollected dream of wrenching change, violence, loss, and most of all love hard-gained and clung to across cultures, generations. Neela Vaswani writes as if she’s lived all these lives. Her sentences are as powerfully precise and startling as the best lyric poetry. Yet finally it is the people, their stories and voices, and the places they define, defining Vaswani’s own life as well, that ground it all. This book is a wonder, a whole world.
—Brad Watson, National Book Award Finalist and author of Aliens in the Prime of their Lives
Mesmerizing and poetic, You Have Given Me a Country is a vital meditation on the spaces that connect one family and divide it, and on the intimate travels one young woman takes between cultures, continents, emotional landmarks, and historical milestones. Pitch-perfect, this memoir reaffirms Vaswani as an international author of distinctive voice and undeniable importance.
—Chandra Prasad, editor of Mixed: An Anthology of Short Fiction on the Multiracial Experience
“Hope, humor and an indomitable spirit fill these pages, and by book’s end, three heroes have emerged: Vaswani’s parents, who defied the cultural, religious and societal norms of their time and instilled in Vaswani a love and appreciation of story; and Vaswani herself, brave enough to ‘pledge allegiance to the in-between.’”
“The lyrical prose style of the book is a love poem to her family. Though Vaswani’s story is steeped in difference, it also embraces the similarities shared with those around her. This book is part history, part memoir, and part social commentary. At the heart of all its pieces is the story of family, and how love can hold it together in the face of obstacles.”
“A novelist’s eye an essayist’s expansive directness a memoirist’s ear .Vaswani’s heritage includes multiple strands of heartbreak; at the center stand her parents, practical and humorous, dedicated to her and the life they made together, with their radical marriage as its beginning What I loved about Vaswani’s book, in addition to the strength of her prose and the beauty of her descriptions, was that it didn’t fit a pattern or confine itself to one kind of form the book as a whole exemplified a devotion to story as a way of creating a world and giving oneself a firm place to stand.”
“By deliberately framing her story as a ‘mixed-genre memoir’ (which is to say a lived history, but one that refuses to claim perfect allegiance to fact), Vaswani makes a contribution to the contemporary debate about trauma, memory, and narrative . Vaswani’s prose is spare and vivid and her characters richly human. In this series of carefully chosen, effortlessly linked memories, she tells the histories, the romances, and the tragedies of her own family’s dance with diaspora, exile, homeland, immigration, identity, and dignity.”
“In You Have Given Me A Country, Vaswani turns to beauty and love as the powers that transcend category. It’s this idea of juxtapositions sewn together with histories and experiences that challenge the limitations of language and identity to which we’re all intrinsically tied. It’s this that holds this beautiful account of personal identity together, too.”
“Neela Vaswani’s memoir You Have Given Me a Country is a powerful, socially relevant book about the personal search for identity as a biracial person. Beautifully written, the book shares Vaswani’s personal history as well as her parents’ with a keen eye for detail and poetic elegance.”
“In the academic realm where often the head is foremost and heart and soul are lacking, Neela brings both and lots of both—heart and soul. Her prose has the richness of poetry.”
—Write With Your Spine