Wednesday, March 31, 2010

Strange Exchange

Kira's other dad, who lives far away and hasn't visited in several years, called tonight. Kira told her dad about how we'd just taken Bapuji and Grandma Gill to dinner, and then asked him "Have you ever had Indian food?"
"Oh, yeah" he said.
Nicole, sitting close by, added, "When you were little, we used to go get Indian food all the time."
"Why?" asked Kira, as is her habit. Before anyone answered, though, she put forth her own theory: "Because you knew you were going to marry an Indian guy?"
I can't remember the rest of the conversation. But that snippet suggests that my daughter wants a story for her life that makes logical, if not chronological, sense. She wants a story in which Indian things go with the Indian side of her family, in which the trajectories of influence are clear and consistent.

I don't think the world works like that.


  1. Yesterday, when you were here getting ready for the drive to CA, Nicole told Kira to run around the back yard three times.

    "Three times... because there are three people in our family?" Kira asked.

    "Yes," Nicole said, "yes."

  2. People are story telling beings. We need stories that have some semblance of logical narrative flow. In situations where we don't have enough evidence or a clear recognizable story, people often make up stories that fit preconceived patterns to fill in the gaps.

  3. I'd meant to follow up on this post with some others, but never did.

    I definitely agree with dad (David Westwood) that we often make stories to fill in gaps. I also think that in cultural terms, this is often dangerous: it undermines our sense of complicated interconnection and makes it easier to divide and stereotype.

    This exchange made me think of Carlos Slim, the world's richest man. Slim is of Lebanese-Mexican descent, and has had some isolated troubles with Mexican suspicions of Arab-Latin American minorities. (How many people in the United States realize that there are ethnic minorities in Mexico, period?)

    In an interview I read, Slim played down his own background. He said, among other things, that the only Arabic he knew was a few swear words.

    That struck me as interesting since every Spanish speaker knows a great deal of borrowed and adapted Arabic. The history of Arab-Mexicans, which seems so suspicious to some Mexicans and so improbable to some Americans, actually probably goes back to the first Spanish arrivals, all of whom carried traces of the Arabic language, many of whom likely also carried at least some Arab blood.

    Something I'd like to pay more attention to on this blog is ethnic stories that don't take the known and expected roads, that play sleight-of-hand tricks on your expectations, and tend to zig-zag.


Related Posts with Thumbnails