How does the grandson of a freedom fighter become a Trump supporter?
I grew up in the 80s and 90s as a half-white, half-Bengali girl in a southern California community that didn’t know what to do with our biracial family. I had never heard of my great grandfather and revolutionary editor Kali Nath Roy until I started trying to make sense of how my dad could be so conservative. I knew he’d emigrated from India in 1950, grown up in the segregated American south, and gone to white schools. I didn’t know much else. As I worked through my complicated relationship with him, I launched a hunt for buried family histories that revealed the enduring presence of ancestors in our lives, the connection between hereditary illnesses and intergenerational traumas, and the mystery of why some stories and values get passed down while others are suppressed.
This creative nonfiction collection features stories of growing up ambiguously brown in southern California, chronic illnesses that connect us to long-gone family members, the narrow threshold between birth and death, and a roots journey to India to recover the story of a great-grandfather turned freedom fighter who was at risk of being forgotten.
These stories ask how family narratives define us, what happens when stories are buried and when they are dug up, and how the legacies of colonization, imprisonment, emigration, participation in the US military, domestic violence, suicide, and racism lodge in descendants’ psyches and bodies. “Where the Water Is” suggests that rebuilding familial connections through learning the truth of these stories may be the key to healing.
An earlier version of this manuscript was produced as a dissertation chaired by S. Shankar; the dissertation committee included Professors Shawna Yang Ryan, Elizabeth Colwill, Cynthia G. Franklin, and Craig Howes.
For inquiries about the manuscript of “Where the Water Is,” contact Anjoli at anjoli [dot] roy [at] gmail [dot] com.
I. Telling Stories on You
Where the Water Is
What Babas Are For
Little Red BMW
What We Lose in the Fractures
Who Gets to Be American / Dad’ s Thirty Seconds of Fame
II. The Body’s Question
Heart Break Body
The Folks Who’ll Come to Your Funeral
How the Universe Conspires
The Body’ s Question
The Thing about Being a Nosey Writer
Love Letter to Kurseong
Finding Yourself in the Story
Mixed in India
The Only Copies We Have
What Waits at Beadon Street
Everything I Know