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Image credit: Author Suketu Mehta at the 2019 Texas Book Festival in Austin, Texas, United States. By Larry D. Moore, CC BY-SA 4.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=83428335

Works by Suketu Mehta

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2008 (4) Asia (14) autobiography (6) biography (7) Bollywood (9) Bombay (89) cities (22) class (4) colonialism (6) contemporary (4) crime (8) cultural studies (4) culture (10) currently-reading (5) essay (4) fiction (14) history (36) immigrants (5) immigration (13) India (220) Indian (7) Indian literature (5) Indien (6) journalism (10) memoir (22) Mumbai (61) non-fiction (152) politics (16) read (15) society (4) sociology (15) South Asia (8) to-read (82) travel (84) travel writing (8) travelogue (5) unread (12) urban (6) urban studies (7) USA (11)

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This is a masterful book that depicts the vibrancy of Bombay. Using a select few as foils, Mehta is able to describe the multitudes. From an incorruptible cop to gangsters, a bar dancer to a monk, a Bollywood producer to a villager come to make his fortune, Mehta leads us through unique lives and is thus able to describe Bombay's social fabric, industries, surrounding villages, dynamics. Mehta's curiosity is an inspiration as we see the world through his eyes as he, himself, comes to terms with being a dual national. It's a long but rewarding read.… (more)
½
 
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Cecilturtle | 15 other reviews | Jan 28, 2024 |
This is a pretty damn good portrait of a city. More than anything I cannot get out of my mind the disfunction of the justice system. This a great introduction to Katherine Boo's book "Behind the Beautiful Forevers."
 
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MylesKesten | 15 other reviews | Jan 23, 2024 |
This ranks in the top five books I read in 2019. The author's look at immigration is interesting. I appreciated how he wove in timely topics like climate change and how the global crisis is impacting countries and citizens around the world, thus creating climate refugees. It is important to think about these topics as we work towards justice.
 
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eo206 | 2 other reviews | Jan 4, 2020 |
Alienating the Swing Voters; or Toward Re-electing the Worst President We've Ever Had

I would have difficulty thinking of a title less likely to entice the readers whom Mehta presumably wants to persuade, or a book less likely to persuade them. Mehta is a US citizen, so yes, this land is his land. With all due respect, people who already agree with an idea, as I suspect most of the positive reviewers are, are not the best judges of how persuasive a presentation of it is. I think this is far more likely to alienate anyone not already in agreement with him; it alienates me. A study that I personally find true found that angry people think they are demonstrating their sincerity, but their auditors react more to the anger than to their words.

Mehta's vitriol is very off-putting and not much of an advertisement for multiculturalism. I thought it was a mistake to start out going for the jugular; some readers may abandon the book. He would have done better to start on a more positive note, to get the reader invested in reading his book. He tries to end the book on a happy note -- by then, I really didn't care. Like so many globalists I know, he is very negative about the United States. I sometime wonder while I'm sitting through a rant, why they don't support building a wall, with a platform on top where they can sit with a megaphone yelling, "Go back, go back, there's nothing for you here in this awful place!" I guess he wants us to be touched when he says that America is home to him; I just puzzled as to why he feels that way. Except in the bosom of his family, he doesn't seem to have had a happy day since he immigrated in 1977. It is interesting to note his use of pronouns: when he is not referring to his family, he uses "us" to align himself against the West, including America, as in "You owe us," rather than "We owe them."

Mehta tells us heart-rending stories about “ordinary heroes” affected by immigration laws. I am aware of the suffering of people in refugees camps and dire poverty. I wish we could land fleets of planes at refugee camps and announce, “Everyone who's interested, pack your bags.” If it were only the individuals used as examples, that would be easy. If it were a hundred or a thousand, or a hundred thousand times that, it would still be very doable. But it's hundreds of millions.

The globalists often engage in all-or-nothing thinking with regard to immigration: in, blogs, in books, and in person, they tend to claim that everyone else is a racist; there can be no compromise. [see Obama*] I think it is folly to focus on open borders and globalism instead on building a coalition for higher quotas, and returning some of the people we have lost to deportation. The former are hot button issues that have other alienating implications. I found the book off-pitch since I welcome immigrants, but not open borders; he says some things that I agree with, phrased in a way that I find insulting. Many thoughtful people agree with Mehta's criticisms of multinational corporations and international finance, but that is also part of globalism. Globalism is credited with creating a middle-class in many poor countries, but Ian Bremmer, in Us vs Them : the Failure of Globalism, believes that automation and artificial intelligence will get rid of most low skill jobs and very likely reverse these gains, especially in countries that have a large percentage of young people.

Mehta doesn't actually address admitting known criminals, but open borders would tend to let them in, and he is vehemently opposed to deporting them and forcing their own governments to deal with them.

Mehta apparently thinks that, based on their color, the Sami, nomadic deer herders who live around the Arctic circle in Europe, and probably haven't left in great numbers since they migrated there, owe the Australian Aborigines big time. He divides the world into two groups: the West and those oppressed by the West. (“The West” does not include Latin America.) All of westerners are guilty of whatever one did, and all non-westerners are owed for whatever happened to one of them. He argues that immigrants are entering the West because westerners were in their countries. One would think that poverty, slavery, inequity, and oppression were previously unheard of. He does not explain how the British colonizing India forced his family to move to New York in 1977. [see Bhopal**]

To Mehta, colonization, enslavement, or imperialism not committed by westerners doesn't count, nor do any assaults committed against them. He argues for unlimited immigration as reparations for their offenses without considering who else might owe reparations. Except for a brief mention of the United States, Mehta ignores the peoples most deserving of reparations: the indigenes, the aborigines, the First Peoples. In the words of Mark Twain: “There is not an acre of ground on the globe that is in the possession of it's rightful owner, or that has not been taken away from owner after owner, cycle after cycle, by force and bloodshed.” Like the United States, most large countries: India, China, France, Russia, were created by displacing and the indigenous populations, grabbing land from neighbors, and/or “uniting” people who wanted to remain independent. If we are all going to give compensation for past sins, we should focus on the oldest surviving, or most oppressed, group of inhabitants in every country, often the same people, as having suffered the most from successive conquests: the dalits or Schedules Castes in India, for example. One might call it pass-through reparation. Mehta doesn't consider that everyone might not want to emigrate. I imagine that the migration policy that would most appeal to Native Americans would be the emigration of the vaunted Nation of Immigrants. The dalits might want emigration -- some might want to leave, and the others might want everyone else in India to leave, and they'll take any payments for the resources that were originally theirs.

*From a speech by Barack Obama: “One of the things I do worry about sometimes among progressives [. . .] is a certain kind of rigidity where we say, “Oh I'm sorry, this is how it's going to be,” Obama said. “And then we start sometimes creating what's called a 'circular firing squad' where you start shooting at your allies because one of them is straying from purity on the issues.”

The former president said he believes this approach “weakens” movement, and that those that would like to see a progressive agenda “have to recognize that the way we've structured democracy requires you to take into account people who don't agree with you.” ('Barack Obama warns against a “circular firing squad” over ideological purity in politics' by Sean Collins, Vox.com, April 6, 2019)

** Bhopal, re: Mehta's tendentious recounting of history: Mehta described Bhopal as an American-made disaster. The pesticide factory was run by United Carbide Indian Limited (UCIL). UCIL was majority-owned by Union Carbide (50.9%). Indian interests, including the Indian Government owned the other 49.1%. There had been previously leaks and accidents prior to the disastrous 2-3 December 1984 leak, which journalist Rajkumar Keswani reported on saying “Wake up Bhopal, you are on the edge of a volcano.” The U.S. Court of Appeals redirected the law suits to India, because UCIL was managed and operated exclusively by Indian nationals in India. The public was not informed in a timely manner of the nature of the leak. Mehta says that a safety system was turned off to save money, but he does not say by whom. The Indian government accepted an out-of-court settlement of claims against UCC in February 1989, which may have had something to do with Warren Anderson not being extradited. At the urging of the Indian Supreme Court, in addition to the settlement, UCC and UCIL also spent $17 million for a hospital in Bhopal to treat the victims. Anderson was not indicted until 1991 by Bhopal authorities. In 2010, 26 years later, eight Indian employees were indicted for negligence. One died before judgement, the rest received the maximum penalty, two years in prison and a fine of 100,000 rupees, $2,227 as of December 2010.

I don't excuse UCC and Anderson: they were the majority owners, they should have kept abreast of what was happening at the factory, especially since problems were exposed by journalist Rajkumar Keswani. If they weren't reading the Bhopal papers, they should have been. My point is that the disaster was also the fault of the negligent Indian employees and the local Indian government for not doing inspections, which Mehta utterly ignores, as he ignores the settlement with the government of India.
… (more)
 
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PuddinTame | 2 other reviews | Sep 16, 2019 |

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