Good Girls Marry Doctors: South Asian American Daughters on Obedience and Rebellion
Edited by Piyali Bhattacharya
Aunt Lute Books, 2016, $15.16
Reviewed By Karen Marrujo
My white American friends didn’t get it. Growing up, I carried a lot of my parents’ stories with me, a lot of their anxieties, and a lot of their expectations. They had come to the US for me, for my future. I struggled to put my struggle into words. I couldn’t explain my sense of obligation, my inability to separate myself from what I wanted to be for them and what I wanted to be for me. I didn’t have the words.
I still struggle with some of these issues, but now I know I am not alone and that has made all the difference. Good Girls Marry Doctors: South Asian American Daughters on Obedience and Rebellion is one of those books that remind me I’m not alone. I may be Latina of Mexican and Nicaraguan ethnicity, but I am able to see myself in these stories of South Asian American daughters, and I know how important it is to find voices that come from a similar perspective, voices that can speak to the same struggles and anxieties. I know that for young South Asian American girls and women, and other young women dealing with issues of diaspora, identity, and family dynamics, this book opens a window — a window that let’s us see beyond what’s right in front of us and helps us move toward acceptance and understanding of ourselves.
This collection is filled with stories that put into words the feelings and struggles that isolate daughters of the diaspora. It’s filled with “the bittersweet song of the immigrant,” as Nayomi Munaweera puts it in “‘The Only Dates are the Ones You Eat’ and Other Laws of an Immigrant Girlhood.” There is pain. There is trauma. There is also humor and hope. In short: there is truth. Every story, every word comes from a place of vulnerability and pain — from a struggle toward self-understanding and self-acceptance. These are the voices of women who have fought to be themselves and who have chosen to come back to their pain in order to offer a helping hand to the young girls and women who still inhabit that painful space. And there is much more waiting outside the book’s pages.
The women whose voices make up Good Girls Marry Doctors, have gone out of their way to encourage others to speak up and share their experiences. This project is all about empowering and supporting women. The book’s website invites community essays and discussions. This book is a part of something much bigger than itself. It is an invitation to join a community, for women to get and give needed support. Piyali Bhattacharya says it best at the end of her introduction to the book: “I hope that with this book, we’ve let you in on a secret: everything you’re feeling, we’ve felt it too. You’re not alone.” And that’s exactly what this book does. As a daughter of immigrants, I am grateful for this book. If only I had been able to read it when I was an adolescent. For girls who are struggling or who have struggled to find a place in their cultural space, this book is much more than a good read. It is inspiring. It is empowering. It is important.