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Brown White Black

An American Family at the Intersection of Race, Gender, Sexuality, and Religion

Nishta J. Mehra


Brown White Black Download image

ISBN10: 1250295718
ISBN13: 9781250295712

Trade Paperback

240 Pages



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Honorable Mention for the NCTE George Orwell Award for Distinguished Contribution to Honesty and Clarity in Public Language

Brown White Black
is a portrait of Nishta J. Mehra's family: her wife, who is white; her adopted child, Shiv, who is black; and their experiences dealing with America's rigid ideas of race, gender, and sexuality. Her clear-eyed and incisive writing on her family's daily struggle to make space for themselves amid racial intolerance and stereotypes personalizes some of America's most fraught issues. Mehra writes candidly about her efforts to protect and shelter Shiv from racial slurs on the playground and from intrusive questions by strangers while educating her child on the realities and dangers of being black in America. In other essays, she discusses growing up in the racially polarized city of Memphis; coming out as queer; being an adoptive mother who is brown; and what it's like to be constantly confronted by people's confusion, concern, and expectations about her child and her family. Above all, Mehra argues passionately for a more nuanced and compassionate understanding of identity and family.

Both poignant and challenging, Brown White Black is a remarkable portrait of a loving family on the front lines of some of the most highly charged conversations in our culture.


Praise for Brown White Black

"For marginalized people, widening the understanding of identity is a path to freedom . . . These essays mine deep and distinct emotional terrain. Mehra delves unflinchingly into each of her identities and their sharp intersections. In this collection Mehra is unafraid to struggle for her own liberty. Readers may finish these pages a bit freer themselves."—Camille Acker, The New York Times Book Review

"A stirring portrait . . . Touching on issues of race, gender, sexuality, parenthood, marriage, and love, [Brown White Black is] a timely book of essays that challenges readers to examine their own understanding of identity and family."Bustle

"Mehra makes a strong statement about the importance of moving beyond gender and racial barriers toward a more inclusive view of family life. Full of a wide range of insight and emotion, these essays effectively show the difficulties of being a mixed-race, same-sex family in America."Kirkus Reviews

“Mehra’s nuanced and thought-provoking work resonates on multiple levels—from the immigrant experience and race relations to accepting one’s sexuality, adoption, parenthood, and more. Excellent for readers interested in family and issues of identity in America.”Library Journal (starred review)

"Mehra, a teacher, reflects on her experience as a lesbian daughter of Indian immigrants with an interracial family in this thoughtful memoir-in-essays . . . This insightful, searching book will appeal to anyone contemplating race, family, or growing into oneself."Publishers Weekly (starred review)

Reviews from Goodreads


Read an Excerpt

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It’s a choice each time I stand in front of a Sharpie-wielding barista: “What’s the name for the order?” It should be a simple enough question, one that generates an automatic response. Except I always...

About the author

Nishta J. Mehra

NISHTA J. MEHRA was raised among a tight-knit network of Indian immigrants in Memphis, Tennessee. She is the proud graduate of St. Mary's Episcopal School and holds a B.A. in Religious Studies from Rice University and an M.F.A in Creative Writing from the University of Arizona. An English teacher with over a decade of experience in middle and high school classrooms, she lives with her wife, Jill, and their child, Shiv, in Phoenix.

She is the author of The Pomegranate King, a collection of essays.

Lauren Schoen

Nishta J. Mehra

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