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Leaving India: My Family's Journey from Five Villages to Five Continents
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Leaving India: My Family's Journey from Five Villages to Five Continents

3.92  ·  Rating details ·  240 ratings  ·  46 reviews
An inspiring personal saga that explores the collisions of choice and history that led one unforgettable family to become immigrants. In this groundbreaking work, Minal Hajratwala mixes history, memoir, and reportage to explore the questions facing not only her own Indian family but that of every immigrant: Where did we come from? Why did we leave?

What did we g
Hardcover, 352 pages
Published March 18th 2009 by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt (first published January 1st 2009)
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Average rating 3.92  · 
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Start your review of Leaving India: My Family's Journey from Five Villages to Five Continents
I am of a cultural group that, at its peak, numbered at less than a half million people. That's the size of the population of Cleveland or thereabouts. Add to this an immigration experience to the US, a place where no one I have ever met has any understanding or knowledge of the culture of my parents and grandparents. This is something I am used to, that I expect, that is part of the air that I breathe. There are very few books written about my cultural group- I have read most I can find, and th ...more
Feb 08, 2009 rated it really liked it
I confess: I picked up Minal's publishing debut more out of support for my friend than intellectual interest. But the joke was on me. I got hooked.

And I didn't realize it until maybe the third chapter or so. Minal's thesis is clear -- she's summarizing her own family's experience and offering it as a template for Indian diaspora -- but she hardly ever states it outright. This was not a doctoral dissertation. This is the best kind of scholarship, that demanded by blood, pursued with r
May 13, 2019 added it
Shelves: 2019, abandoned
She calls herself a lesbian while dating men? Anyway this is just too much for my brain to deal with right now, maybe pick it up in the future.
Jul 17, 2011 rated it liked it
Wow---this took me months to finish. The idea behind the book is interesting----the author weaves her family's diasporic narrative among the historical trends that led such migration to occur. And while she is a good writer, she goes into what I find an unnecessary depth of detail that really doesn't add much to the overall work. She also tries to maintain this journalistic distance throughout the first part of the book, which doesn't really make sense when you're talking about your own family. ...more
Charlie Close
Jul 26, 2015 rated it it was amazing
Minal Hajratwala has written a sweeping yet personable history of her extended family's migration from India to points all over the world.

She tells stories about her family members' journeys to Fiji, South Africa, New Zealand, Australia, and the United States. She gives their histories, starting over a hundred years ago, and sets them in the context of the culture and politics of their new homes. Like most of the best history, we see the big picture by starting with the details and t
Dorothee Lang
Aug 24, 2012 rated it it was amazing
I started to read “Leaving India” as part of a global reading challenge – and was amazed by it. It was the title with its reference to five continents that made me pick it, and as it turns out, this book is both an exploration of family migrations, and a fascinating reflection on time and the world, reaching back to the days of the British Empire and sketching a picture of life in India that explains the migrations of family members to other continents. Minal Hajratwala has a wonderful way to ma ...more
Mary Anne
Feb 19, 2009 is currently reading it
"Historians used to speak of 'push' and 'pull' as the main facors in migration, principles as basic to human motivation as warp and weft are to cloth...."

So far, even though I normally find history dull and hard to read, am enjoying this. In part because I know Minal, of course -- it's impossible not to be aware of her as the person writing this memoir. But it's also smoothly-written and just plain interesting. Going to have my colonial/post-colonial students read Chapter 2, "Cloth",
May 23, 2014 rated it it was amazing
Highly, very highly recommend!! This is a wonderful family history solidly situated in real history.
MInal is curious and courageous. She brings the rigour of an academic to the telling of her family's story. She illustrates the characters and their era with a depth of understanding that broadens our awareness of the strivings of these emigres: their cultural attachment to India, and their relationship to their adopted homelands in the different eras of immigration. Her analysis of her own traje
Nov 17, 2012 rated it it was amazing
Ms. Hajratwala's Leaving India is one of the best books I've read in 2009, 2010 and 2012. Yes, I've read it 3 times. Minal has done a remarkable and outstanding job in regards to the Indian Diaspora and how it relates to her genealogy. While Leaving India is historical nonfiction, it is both lyrical and poetic. Brings to mind two of my favorite poets: Audre Lorde and Sonia Sanchez.
Marisela Chavez
Aug 29, 2010 marked it as to-read  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: gave-up
I really want to read this, but it's too much for me to follow right now.
Vinayak Hegde
Nov 05, 2019 rated it liked it
Shelves: indian-history
The book is part personal autobiography and part family history. It interspersed with colonialism, British rule, family feuds, LGBTQ+ issues, immigrant experiences and more. The Khatri family moved from a small village in Gujarat to many different countries - Fiji, Uganda, South Africa, US, UK, New Zealand, Canada and Australia.

The story is the author trying to follow her roots through the maze of history. The narrative is too long and there are quite a few unnecessary details thatr
Feb 11, 2019 rated it it was amazing
History is story and, like story, it's comprised of individual people enmeshed in their lives. This meticulously researched, beautifully written, and deeply compassionate book is a tapestry of stories, bringing us into the life struggles, ambitions, and migrations of multiple members of the author's extended family over the past century--and not only recreates their lives but evokes the sociopolitical and economic forces that influenced where they traveled and who they were able to become. The s ...more
May 07, 2017 rated it it was amazing
Loved it! And yes, probably knowing the author swayed by judgment a bit. And being part of the Indian diaspora myself.

I just saw myself reflected in these pages, and I gained a greater understanding of myself, my journey, and my ancestors in the process. The book did take me a while to get through. At the same time, all the characters seemed to represent parts of me, and that was amazingly moving.
Gaurav Singh
This is a very detailed personal memoir which can get never ending. Though the book had interesting sections about more meaningful things which I was looking for... which were about cultural challenges of immigration and moving around the world. What does it mean to grow up with Indian parents outside India. But these were very few pages, while the rest of the books were filled with names, timings and family details which I think was not important to me.
Nirupama Jayaraman
The author promises a journey and takes you on one. You travel back and forth across continents and find yourself invested in her story, as much as yours.
Jul 20, 2019 rated it it was amazing
Wonderful book. Somehow manages to be both a grand sweep of history and a series of intimate portraits of Indian diaspora all around the world.
Kristy Lin Billuni
Apr 21, 2010 rated it it was amazing
I’ve waited far too long to post this, perhaps because I had another identity crisis when I sat down to write it. I’ve written a few “reviews” of writing projects on this blog, all of which have been positive. And I realize that when you are writing 100% positive reviews, you are not so much a reviewer or a critic and more of a promoter.

And when I read back through previous Amazon reviews, I see that I am no critic. That’s probably because when I love a book enough to write about it,
As the subtitle implies, Leaving India is a sprawling kind of book - it deals with a bunch of generations in many different places. The actual narrative threads are, somehow, both more focused and more diffuse than I expected (and, frankly, than I prefer: I prefer a slightly tighter organization). I found that I had a pretty good cumulative grasp on who everyone was, and what their stories were, but sometimes while I was in the middle of the story I was a bit disoriented. BUT, it all worked out, so I ...more
Mar 31, 2011 rated it really liked it
Shelves: non-fiction
The early parts of the book were really interesting as MH traces the migration patterns of her family as they wend their way FIji, South Africa and the US while providing a sense of the historical contexts and what they meant to individuals. These sections are a little academic and dry but quite compelling.

The last section deals with MH own journey as she 'leaves India' emotionally. The writing is more personal her but this is a story that's been told many many times and she has noth
Jun 06, 2012 rated it really liked it
Shelves: india, travel
i enjoyed this book from the beginning, when the author opens with a quintessentially indian scene- her, seated with her family, on the floor in the back of a house of local "historians" (essentially, men with good memories for major events- eclipses, heavy rains, droughts) inquiring as to whether it would be possible to have her family tree mapped out.

this is a non fictional account of minal's family and their history of emigration from india. who is who, and how they are all relate
Mar 01, 2009 rated it liked it
It's a very lengthy book, but I'm glad I finished it. Minal provides a very informative look at the history behind the South Asian diaspora, and she recounts her own family's stories that could very be any one of our family's stories.

At the end, however, I wasn't able to see a common thread linking all the stories, despite Minal's best efforts. To me, the book described the history of eight family members, each with very unique stories that connected to the other only by the accident
Apr 07, 2009 rated it it was amazing
For me, this book struck the perfect balance of learning and feeling.

I tore through the narrative because of the beautiful portrayals of the Hajratwala's family members. She has pieced together their stories through oral histories and written record with a journalist's fairness and a poet's lyricism. Unlike most non-fiction, I was completely emotionally involved with the "characters" in this book.

Along the way, pieces of the last 150 years of global history fit together for me in a way that th
Aug 09, 2009 rated it liked it
Got through the first couple of chapters before I had to bring it back to the library. Learned a lot of good history about the Indian diaspora, but the pacing and balance is uneven. Hajratwala has opted for a difficult form: balancing family history against a more generalized diaspora history. The chapter on Fiji was succinct and a good balance, but the South Africa chapter was unwieldy--odd, since I am more interested in the diaspora in that country.
Mar 06, 2011 rated it really liked it
A fascinating story of South Asian diaspora, through the eyes of journalist Minal Hajratwala. Hajratwala traveled to the five continents her ancestors from rural Gujarat, India, emigrated to and made their lives in. Tracing their intertwined stories with her family's memories and her own life, she paints a picture of history, emigration/immigration, and identity. Well researched, well written, and very interesting.
May 25, 2009 rated it liked it
There were a lot of things I liked about this book so it probably deserves 3 1/2 stars. It was an interesting interleave of the history of Indian immigration and personal stories from the author's family's experiences. Unfortunately the fact that it tried to tell the story of so many different people interrupted the flow of the narrative. There were also parts where the language was a bit over-flowery for me. Overall I enjoyed the read and learned a bunch of intriguing historical tidbits.
May 27, 2009 rated it liked it
This is an accessible and entertaining mix of memoir and history. Hajratwala skillfully synthesizes the extensive history of the Indian diaspora, placing her own family within a trend that began at the end of the 19th century. She succeeds at constructing the lives of her grandparents and great grandparents through stories she hear from relatives across the globe, and offers insight into her own place in this migration.
Shasta Matova
Sep 08, 2013 rated it really liked it
Shelves: genealogy
This book is mostly a family history / genealogy. It is an interesting one, since her family came from India, but the family members moved to many different parts of the world including Fiji, South Africa, and the United States. It was interesting to see what parts of the culture the family members kept and what changed as they assimilated (or didn't) into their new countries.
Oct 29, 2016 rated it it was amazing
This is a phenomenal read, a memoir that tells a story about the writer and her family, but also puts it firmly in context of... basically the whole world. It's about movement and migration, a story that will ring true to anyone whose family traveled to where they are today. Highly recommended.
Mar 14, 2010 rated it it was amazing
Incredibly well-written and evocative. A sweeping tale of the unfolding Indian diaspora - well researched, detailed and intimate - against a backdrop of histories of many lands, which I find really fascinating. The story it tells is close to home, both figuratively and literally.
Jun 08, 2010 rated it really liked it
Ms. Hajratwala makes her family, comprised of seemingly normal people, interesting by dissecting their immigration decisions and placing the stories in the the historical contexts of their adopted countries. I also enjoyed her own personal story, told reluctantly towards the end.
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Minal Hajratwala is a writer, performer, poet, and queer activist based in San Francisco, where she was born before being whisked off to be raised in New Zealand and suburban Michigan. She is the author of Leaving India: My Family’s Journey From Five Villages to Five Continents (Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, March 2009). She spent seven years researching and writing the book, traveling the world to interview m ...more