In Brown Baby Shukla explores themes of racism, feminism, parenting and our shifting ideas of home. With writing that will both fill and open your heart, this by turns, heartbreaking, hilariously funny and intensely relatable memoir is dedicated to the author’s two young daughters, and is in remembrance of the grandmother they never got to meet. Through love, grief, food, fatherhood and the often cluttered experiences that make us each who we are, Shukla shows how it’s possible to believe in hope.
Published this week, a huge thanks to the publisher for sending me a proof of this book.
A very interesting and thought provoking exploration of fatherhood through the lens of race. Nikesh Shukla reflects honestly about becoming a father, much of what he talks about will resonate with any parent, others are specific to his relationship with his daughter.
The chapter on sleep, made me smile as Shukla detailed the sheer exhaustion; the trauma of wondering if your child will ever sleep and not wanting to do anything ‘wrong’ to delay this! Chapters on being a girl and about skin colour were enlightening. I think it is fair to say we are starting to be more aware of how people are representated in books, films, toys etc but reading this really highlighted to me how important it is. For this little girl there were so few positive reflections of herself in her play and reading materials and and it was evident that this led to a whole range of negative perceptions. The conversations about being a girl were more familiar, as a white woman, reading this was particularly helpful in applying my own experiences of sexism and limitations in societal structures and expectations, to the experiences of people of colour and developing a deeper understanding.
Aspects of this book were incredibly helpful talking about the legacy of language in relation to race was useful and needing to know this to understand why some words or phrases are racist and others not.
Loss was a theme of this book as Shukla spoke about his mother, missing her advice to help him navigate parenthood, to help him navigate his parenting of his brown daughter, in a place where being brown is the minority and racism is a daily occurence. He recounted his parents views of what he could and couldn’t do and the need to follow in the steps of others ‘like him’ who had gone before, into medicine or law, not writing.
Lots is covered in this book and for this reason anyone who picks this up will idenitfy with some aspects I think. At just over 230 pages it is not long and while I read it one go, equally it could be a book to be dipped into. It is an important read in its exploration of race, but references to Brexit and the environmental crisis we are facing are other areas of concern for Shukla, expressed in his hopes for a better future for his daughters.
About the Author
Nikesh Shukla is the author of fiction titles including Coconut Unlimited (shortlisted for the Costa First Novel Award), Meatspace, The Boxer (Longlisted for the Carnegie Medal), Run Riot and The One Who Wrote Destiny. He edited the award-winning and agenda-setting essay collection The Good Immigrant, which won the reader’s choice award at the Books Are My Bag Aeards and was shortlisted for Book of the Year at the British Book Awards. Shukla is also a TV comedy writer, podcast host and filmmaker.