Goodreads helps you keep track of books you want to read.
Start by marking “This Is One Way to Dance: Essays” as Want to Read:
This Is One Way to Dance: Essays
Enlarge cover
Rate this book
Clear rating
Open Preview

This Is One Way to Dance: Essays

4.22  ·  Rating details ·  155 ratings  ·  52 reviews
In the linked essays that make up her debut collection, This Is One Way to Dance, Sejal Shah explores culture, language, family, and place. Throughout the collection, Shah reflects on what it means to make oneself visible and legible through writing in a country that struggles with race and maps her identity as an American, South Asian American, writer of color, and femini ...more
Published June 1st 2020 by University of Georgia Press
More Details... Edit Details

Friend Reviews

To see what your friends thought of this book, please sign up.

Reader Q&A

To ask other readers questions about This Is One Way to Dance, please sign up.

Be the first to ask a question about This Is One Way to Dance

Community Reviews

Showing 1-30
Average rating 4.22  · 
Rating details
 ·  155 ratings  ·  52 reviews

More filters
Sort order
Start your review of This Is One Way to Dance: Essays
Jan 18, 2020 rated it really liked it
Shelves: netgalley, kindle
Thanks to Netgalley and University of Georgia press for an egalley in exchange for an honest review.

As the title suggests, this is a collection of essays written by author, Sejal Shah, on her own experiences as an Indian-American. From childhood to marriage and cultural traditions and the struggle to find herself in pop culture references.

Although the collection will not be available until June 2020, something compelled me to pick it up on this cold January day. I am glad that I did because S
Suraj Alva
Jun 30, 2020 rated it it was amazing
This simply is one of the best books I've read all year. I rarely write reviews but I have to say something about this sensually enlightening experience I was just put through.

I occasionally read essays but fiction for me is numero uno. And it goes without saying I've never read or thought of reading a collection of essays by a single author.

This work intrigued me, since I am an Indian in America. But unlike the author, I immigrated when I was 16. Also, my parents are protestants hailing from
Lupita Reads
May 16, 2020 rated it it was amazing
Truly enjoyed this collection. More on why after I mediate some more on these words!!
Dec 16, 2020 rated it really liked it
This is a solid collection of essays. I appreciated Sejal’s meditations on life as a Gujarati American, a writer, and someone trying to find her place in the world. Her writing is soft and intimate and I found myself so drawn into her words. My only critique is that there wasn’t really a cohesive theme. As a reader, you sort of drift along, and with the way the collection was introduced, I was expecting something more cohesive. Expect snapshots in time and soft meditations.

Thank you to Netgalley
Kimberly Lynne
Dec 11, 2019 rated it it was amazing
“Where are you from?”

Who gets to ask that question, and of whom? Should it ever be answered, and if so, how?

Sejal Shah’s “This is One Way to Dance” delves into the tension of life as a second-gen South Asian immigrant: about “growing up Indian outside of India,” a native-born American who was (and is) viewed as “other than.” She quotes Kakali Bhattacharya. “…(We) are co-opted by ‘model-minority’ discourses or caricatured…Our invisibility stems from being racialized as non-white and non-black…we
Lara Lillibridge
"That you are a brown girl here, never just a girl." (pg. 5)

This is a beautiful essay collection examining race, identity, and what it means to be a woman of marriageable age in today's society.

“How awkward and beautiful we were, in our fake Izods, in our Sears.” (pg. 44) Shah's lyric prose brought me back to my own childhood in a neighboring suburb of Rochester, New York, shopping at Sears and dreaming of JC Penny. She brings us back into the 1980s streets of mismatched houses, putting us bac
Katie Mac
I received an eARC of this book from NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.

While the style was more wandering/musing than what I'm accustomed to reading, Shah's depiction of what it means to be Indian-American in a country that levels microaggressions at her on a regular basis is thoughtful, compelling, and beautiful.
Aug 30, 2020 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
The author is from Rochester, NY so I was interested and m reading it. Sejal’s book is a collection of essays about her life story over the years. They are musings about life as a person who heritage is from Gugarat India but she was raised in Rochester. She has also lived in many places in the US such as NYC and CA. They were definitely interesting.
Kriti | Armed with A Book
Find complete book thoughts on Armed with A Book .

If ‘India’ ever comes up in your talk with someone, what do you think about? Is it huge colorful weddings with lots and lots of people? Or do you think about gold jewelry or was it a place that you called home, or still call home? I grew up in India, and when I moved to Canada a couple years back, I wanted to take on this new identity of being Canadian. The last couple months of starting my first job and thinking about marriage has made me dig
Uttara Bharath Kumar
Jun 21, 2020 rated it it was amazing
Nothing about this book is ordinary. Sejal’s essays give voice to and likely echo in ways big and small, the experiences of the South Asian second generation in the US, but as a collection they are uniquely her story. Her chronological ordering of essays helps map some of the more important stopping points on her journey of thought, writing and being. As she said at her book launch, “these essays were written for different reasons at different times. It is like looking through old photos – hairs ...more
Jun 08, 2020 rated it it was amazing
This collection of linked essays begins with Shah's exploration of growing up in Rochester, New York, the daughter of Gujarati immigrants from India and Kenya, and covers twenty years of inhabiting a space where one's identity is only partially (and imperfectly) reflected back. One of the first essays, "Matrimonial," recounts a wedding where Shah as a young girl first realizes how discordant certain aspects of her own home life feel from her suburban New York surroundings and how wonderful it is ...more
Thanks netgalley for an ebook copy of the book before publication date.
4 stars.

Dancing, not my thing.
'Monsoon wedding', nope, but I've seen the great crossover movie 'Salam Namaste'
So it appears that Indian culture, is not something I know much about.

I wanted to read this collection of short pieces of writing, that talk about a personal experience I could never have but can read all about.

I enjoyed this book very much and will be interested in further writing from the mind and pen of Sejal
Ariel (ariel_reads)
Feb 22, 2020 rated it it was amazing
Autobiographical musings and poetic essays that capture what it means to search for--and claim-- one's identity where "white" is the norm. Strong and thoughtful, Sejal Shah paints a beautiful yet yearning picture of life's existential questions as they are tainted with microagressions that she's experienced. ...more
Hannah Edinburgh
DNF at 25%. I couldn’t get into a rhythm with her writing and nothing was really that new to me in her writings about identity.
Nancy Kho
Jul 14, 2020 rated it it was amazing
A beautiful book of essays about growing up Brown in America in the 80s… As a high school classmate of Shah’s brother (I remember Mr. Musgrave’s lessons about Ordinary People too!) I found this collection to be eye-opening, tender, and lyrical. Looking forward to her next book!
Martha Anne Toll
Here’s my review for NPR Books. ...more
Mittra Patel
Sep 06, 2020 rated it it was amazing
Sejal puts into words things I've felt growing up but have previously been unable to articulate. I've always loved Indian weddings, but I couldn't explain exactly why...

"To catch all of the references, you had to be Indian, you had to be American- you had to be us. It was the first time in my life I didn't feel foreign or an outsider in the country in which I had been born and raised."

This book is magic and a treasure for those like me who have grown up Indian in a place that is not Indian.
Jan 01, 2021 rated it really liked it
Shelves: mobi-files
Like the spinning dancer that graces the cover of Sejal Shah's "This is One Way to Dance", this collection of essays blur the lines between lyrical and factual, between longing for home and being self sufficient, between proudly declaring a heritage and being caught in vulnerable moments of self doubt and questioning. Shah delves into the complexities of her childhood, of a racialized upbringing in a white neighborhood, of wanting to connect to a home that isn't quite home, of the inexplicable b ...more
Aug 18, 2020 rated it it was amazing
I am brand new to reading essay collections and after this I will certainly be reading more. Sejal's writing is beautiful and powerful. Multiple times I paused after reading an essay to savor her words. These are passages I know I will find myself going back to in the future. This book caused me to reflect over and over on my own life, ideas, biases, and beliefs. I highly recommend giving this a read especially during this crazy time. ...more
Oct 25, 2020 rated it really liked it
Like Sejal,my parents migrated to the US from India in the mid-1970s. I was part of the first wave of Indian immigrant kids to be raised in the US and especially the NYC/NJ area which is now famous for its Little India’s in Jersey City, Oak Tree in Edison and Jackson Heights in Queens. I could relate deeply to all the various situations Sejal had as an Indian kid growing up in upstate NY since NJ was not that different in the 80s and early 90s. Much of what it was like for the early Indian commu ...more
May 17, 2020 rated it it was amazing
Poetic and stirring, an examination of identity in America , that I entirely related to as a daughter of immigrants. Who is the authority on how you present yourself, in words, in form, in place, in time? How much can you really control about how others take you in? If they even see you? How much do we yield to what others want to see, and how firmly do we hold our own ground and authenticity? These personal essays tangle with these universal themes.
May 17, 2020 rated it it was amazing
A beautiful and moving collection of autobiographical essays that brought me to tears while prompting me to revisit and reconsider the stations of my own life.
Jul 09, 2020 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: staff-picks
Loved this collection of essays that forms a loose memoir. Shah is also a poet and that comes through in her writing. There are parts that just sing. It's quite powerful about race, identity, family, grief and a sense of belonging. In other words, it's about the human experience.

ETA: August 2020 staff pick
Jul 24, 2020 rated it it was amazing
I began reading these essays a month ago. Normally I would zip through a book this size in a day, day and a half at the most. But as I started Shah's first essay, SKIN I realized these were going to be pieces to read slowly, thoroughly. To savor. I hoped the rest of the collection would live up to its beginning, and I was not disappointed. Shah composed these essays of a course of about 20 years, coming back to almost all of them for a fresh look at her past self. It's an unusual take, and she d ...more
Jun 02, 2020 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: 2020
Sejal Shah's reader will glide, along with her, through moments and spaces that may seem non-linear or geographically disparate but for the essays and threads that connect them. Shah's writing challenges the constructs of language itself, as words, names, even numbers serve as touchstones of memory, imagination, the realities of living in brown skin, being a woman. Lyrical and powerful, this memoir is tough to put down: each essay begs us to step into the next, and the next, as she gracefully co ...more
Jan 04, 2021 rated it really liked it
I've followed Sejal Shah's essays for some time now, and this book of essays was such a pleasure to read. Her writing is pure poetry - it flows so beautifully. There are so many ways in which her life experiences mirror mine, and she touches upon many aspects of growing up Indian-American in Rochester, NY and growing into a writer. Her writing hit very close to home for me. The cultural artifacts she excavates are all-too-familiar for any South Asian immigrant: the complexities of Indian marriag ...more
Jun 12, 2020 marked it as library-book-had-to-return
got about halfway through this, and probably would've pushed myself to finish it out if current events hadn't (needfully) exploded. some of the essays are really great on a craft level, some beautiful sentences- great for learning from. I wanted to see more exploration of the writer's understanding of how caste and class have shaped her South Asian American experience and I wanted to read more about her understanding of Indianness (or not Indianness) through her mother's diaspo
Hannah Bae
Jun 10, 2020 rated it it was amazing
Thank goodness for Sejal Shah. I've come to her words during a time of immense turmoil, and her essays have been an affirming comfort. A gifted artist in both poetry and prose, she writes confidently on topics ranging from representation in children's literature, the burdens of carrying a name that white America wrongly considers "foreign," about mentors and her evolution as a teacher herself, immense losses in life, and so much more. Shah is clearly a writer well-versed in the Asian American ca ...more
Rebecca H.
I feel a special connection to this essay collection because many of the pieces discuss living in Rochester, New York, which is where I grew up. This book also impressed me with its insightful, personal exploration of race, culture, family, and writing. Shah writes about joyful dancing at weddings and about moving around the country following jobs and then returning home again. She writes about food, travel, studying creative writing, and what it was like to grow up in a small Gujarati community ...more
Feb 17, 2021 rated it liked it
Sejal Shah's essays on place and identity over a decade of her life. For the first third or so, I really liked this. I felt like the amount I cringed inside at her brutal honesty about growing up Indian was reflective both of deeply resonant experiences of my own and of some lack of boldness in other writers. But for the rest of it, I found the form disjointed and often illogically strung together, not unlike a diary. I don't have a problem with self-aware contradiction in writing, particularly ...more
« previous 1 next »
There are no discussion topics on this book yet. Be the first to start one »

Readers also enjoyed

  • Hiroshima
  • Time Regained
  • Critique of Practical Reason
  • The Happy Prince
  • Know My Name
  • Maritime Tales of Lake Ontario
  • Dear Girls: Intimate Tales, Untold Secrets, & Advice for Living Your Best Life
  • The Lies That Bind
  • Raise High the Roof Beam, Carpenters & Seymour: An Introduction
  • The Crack-Up
  • Girls on the Line
  • Station Eleven
  • World of Wonders: In Praise of Fireflies, Whale Sharks, and Other Astonishments
  • A Little History of the World
  • Varieties of Presence
  • Strange Tools: Art and Human Nature
  • Infinite Baseball: Notes from a Philosopher at the Ballpark
  • Out of Our Heads: Why You Are Not Your Brain, and Other Lessons from the Biology of Consciousness
See similar books…
Sejal Shah is the author of the debut memoir in essays, This Is One Way to Dance (University of Georgia Press, June 2020). Her essays and stories on race, place, and belonging have appeared in Brevity, the Kenyon Review, Lit Hub, and the Rumpus, among others. She is the recipient of a New York Foundation for the Arts Fellowship in fiction and residencies from Blue Mountain Center, The Millay Colon ...more

News & Interviews

Some interesting news for book nerds: According to recent industry research, book sales spiked dramatically in 2020–otherwise a rather...
21 likes · 6 comments