Long before Ruhi Lee fell pregnant, she knew she was never going to be the ‘good Indian daughter’ her parents demanded. But when the discovery that she is having a girl sends her into a slump of disappointment, it becomes clear she’s getting weighed down by emotional baggage that needs to be unpacked, quickly.
“After shoving physical abuse, sexual abuse, mental illness and family dysfunction under the rug over the decades, I couldn’t understand my own underwhelming response at the thought of mothering a daughter.”
So Ruhi sets herself a mission to deal with the potholes in her past before her baby is born. Delving into her youth in suburban Melbourne, she draws a heartrending yet often hilarious picture of a family in crisis, struggling to connect across generational, cultural and personal divides.
Sifting through her own shattered self-esteem, Ruhi confronts the abuse threaded through her childhood. How can she hold on to the family and culture she has known and loved her whole life, when they are the reason for her scars?
Good Indian Daughter is a breath of fresh air. I laughed out loud on page one – a portent for how much this book would make me laugh. Ruhi is a genuinely funny writer but also uses humour throughout to soften the blow of so many other emotions you’ll feel as you read this.
Right throughout this smart, fiercely honest memoir, you understand what is at stake for Ruhi. In a culture where the sacrifices parents make weigh heavy and daughters are meant to be compliant, the publication of this book is anything but. This is a brave book. However, it is not a rejection of culture or family, but rather an exploration of how Ruhi can pass the privilege of all this on to her daughter – without the pain. Hers is the story of so many Australians born to immigrant parents, who struggle as the expectations of culture clash uncomfortably with their new life. Her exploration of her Indian culture makes for a fascinating and informative reading.
Good Indian Daughter is a brutally honest yet brilliantly funny memoir for anyone who’s ever felt like a let-down. But more than that, it’s a love letter to her child. It is the ultimate show of a mother’s love – one woman’s journey to understand, heal, be better and do better for her own daughter. Totally engrossing and highly recommended.
Acknowledgment of Cultural Fund support
Better Reading acknowledges the support provided by Copyright Agency for us to promote Good Indian Daughter.