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Missed Translations

Meeting the Indian Parents Who Raised Me

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Approaching his 30th birthday, Sopan Deb had found comfort in his day job as a writer for The New York Times and a practising comedian. But his stage material highlighting his South Asian culture only served to mask the insecurities borne from his family history. Sure, Deb knew the facts: his parents, both Indian, separately immigrated to North America in the 1960s and 1970s. They were brought together in a volatile and ultimately doomed arranged marriage and raised a family in suburban New Jersey before his father returned to India alone.

But Deb had never learned who his parents were as individuals—their ages, how many siblings they had, what they were like as children, what their favourite movies were. Theirs was an ostensibly nuclear family without any of the familial bonds. Coming of age in a mostly white suburban town, Deb’s alienation led him to seek separation from his family and his culture, longing for the tight-knit home environment of his white friends. His desire wasn’t rooted in racism or oppression; it was born of envy and desire—for white moms who made after-school snacks and asked his friends about the girls they liked and the teachers they didn’t. Deb yearned for the same.

Deb’s experiences as one of the few minorities covering the Trump campaign, and subsequently as a stand-up comedian, propelled him on a dramatic journey to India to see his father—the first step in a life-altering journey to bridge the emotional distance separating him from those whose DNA he shared. Deb had to learn to connect with this man he recognized yet did not know—and eventually breach the silence separating him from his mother. As it beautifully and poignantly chronicles Deb’s odyssey, Missed Translations raises questions essential to us all: Is it ever too late to pick up the pieces and offer forgiveness? How do we build bridges where there was nothing before—and what happens to us, to our past and our future, if we don’t?

Sopan Deb is a writer for The New York Times, where he has covered culture and basketball. He is also a New York City-based comedian. Before joining the Times, Deb was one of a handful of reporters who covered Donald Trump’s presidential campaign from start to finish as a campaign embed for CBS News. He covered hundreds of rallies in more than forty states for a year and a half and was named a “breakout media star” of the election by Politic. At The New York Times, Deb has interviewed high-profile subjects such as Denzel Washington, Stephen Colbert, the cast of Arrested Development, Kyrie Irving, and Bill Murray. Deb’s work has previously appeared on NBC, Al Jazeera America, and in the Boston Globe, ranging from examining the trek of endangered manatees to following a class of blind filmmakers in Boston led by the former executive producer of Friends. He won an Edward R. Murrow award for Larger Than Life, a documentary he produced for the Boston Globe. He lives in New York City with his fiancée, Wesley.

  • Publisher: S&S India (November 24, 2020)
  • Length: 272 pages
  • ISBN13: 9788194752011