I have always belonged at the beginning of the world, and where it seems to end, where the sky meets the sea, where the sea meets the land, on a plane where the two become indistinguishable from each other and you can no longer tell if you are going home or leaving it.Jamila Osman, A Map of Lost Things
As an expat, I am innately curious about other people’s idea of home. So, when I came across A Map Is Only One Story, I promptly added it to my TBR. Edited by Nicola Chung and Mensah Demary, it is an anthology of essays covering immigration, family and the meaning of home. These are personal narratives written by immigrants and children of immigrants.
I’m amazed at the oceans people will cross to find a better life. To dream new dreams and find purpose on the other side of the world, miles away from home. How empathy is in short supply and how the color of your skin dictates your path in life and the opportunities that may or may not come your way.
I can relate to the sense of ‘foreignness’ portrayed in these pages. They depict what it’s like to be different, to stand out in a crowd, to be made fun of for your accent, to exist in two different worlds and cultures. More importantly, these narratives tell us what it is like to be an immigrant or a refugee in a xenophobic world.
These are my favorite essays from this collection:
- Jamila Osman’s A Map of Lost Things takes us on an intimate and melancholic journey from Somalia to USA & Canada. She talks about grief and how it transforms the topography
- Deepti Kapoor’s My Indian Passport is a Bitch showcases with searing honesty the travails of traveling with an Indian passport – endless paperwork, interrogations and visa fees
- Nur Nasreen Ibrahim’s Return to Partition details her family’s crossing of the India-Pakistan border and the memories it unearths
- Shing Yin Khor’s Say It with Noodles is a comic about feelings and food. It demonstrates how she uses cooking to express her feelings when language is a barrier
- Kamna Muddagouni’s How to Stop Saying Sorry When Things Aren’t Your Fault is a wake-up call to those of us who apologize for things that are beyond our control. As the author so eloquently puts it, “Sorry is a coverall. It’s an accessible word to use when you can’t always express what it is you’re feeling beyond some amount of regret or sorrow.”
If you’re looking for an engaging non-fiction read, A Map is Only One Story is your best bet. It’s an honest take on immigration, family and the meaning of home.