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by Rupinder Gill
Reviewed by Joyce Nickel

Sometimes you just need to read something fun. After many years immersed in the non-fiction world of career, home renovation and childcare books, I've been trying to catch up on literary fiction, award winners and classics. It's been a rich experience, but through these books I've also experienced some very grim and serious worlds. I saw the evidence of this when one of the members of my book club dropped out because she found all our selections too depressing—and she had only read a few of the books I'd been reading. Sometimes all that literary gravitas gets overwhelming, and you just need to come up for air. That's why I found Rupinder Gill's memoir On the Outside Looking Indian: How My Second Childhood Changed My Life to be a quick, humorous break.

Rupinder grew up in the 1980s in a predominantly white Ontario town. While her school friends were busy with extracurricular activities and sleepovers, Rupinder's immigrant parents raised her and her sisters "by the standard rules of northern Punjab nunneries." Her life outside of school was spent babysitting her younger siblings, cleaning the house, and watching endless hours of TV. From this she formed her own ideas of what life in North America was supposed to be. "Like most children of immigrants, I was raised by the rules of one culture and looked longingly at those living a distinctly different way." She envied her non-Indian friends, who she thought "had the luxury of indulging their interests."

Fast-forward to Rupinder at age thirty. Although she has good friends, a university degree and a career, she realizes that she still wants those experiences that she believes all Canadian kids had, and that she missed while watching hundreds of hours of TV. Over the next year, she sets out to reclaim her lost childhood by conquering her list. Specifically, she wants to: "learn to swim, take lessons, visit Disney World, go to camp, and own a pet." With a strong dose of self-deprecating humour, she systematically tackles her goals, and takes the reader along for the entertaining experience.

On the Outside Looking Indian is Rupinder's story. She doesn't presume to speak for other Indian immigrants. And though she pokes good-natured fun at her culture, her story could resonate with any immigrant, or just anyone who feels that they somehow don't fit in. This is a light-hearted commentary; it's the story of one woman's quest for her hopes and dreams. The Indian Diaspora has blessed English literature with some fabulously talented, but often very serious writers; it's refreshing to find that it has also given us a humourist.

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