Nature or nurture?
What truly makes you 'you'?
Shilpi Somaya Gowda's Secret Daughter examines notions of family and self-identity while confronting cultural differences between America and India during the 1990s and 2000s.
Gowda tells the tale of Asha, a young Indian girl who was raised by adoptive parents in America. Gowda explores Asha's adoptive parent's tumultuous relationship as their daughter travels to India to research families in Mumbai's poorest localities. Marriages, family ties, notions of motherhood, nationalism, and identity are brought under question within her work.
Gowda writes a very engaging, fast-paced, and addictive read. Her chapters, so short and succinct, left me wanting more. Reading one chapter quickly led to reading more and more of her book.
I found Secret Daughter's depiction conflicts within inter-cultural marriages most interesting. The relationship between Asha's adoptive parents - an American woman and Indian man - is deeply expolored with Gowda's work. American and Indian cultures are portrayed as completely distinct entities. Gowda expertly explores differences in food, clothing, language, religion, household arrangements, and status of women in each country.
Above all, Gowda weaves a tale of compromise, compassion, and love. Gowda suggests that family is more than blood, it is a socially constructed connection.
Gowda, Shilpi Somaya. Secret Daughter. New York: Harper Collins, 2010.