Review of They Called Us Exceptional: And Other Lies that Raised Us by Prachi Gupta
In her memoir, Gupta explores the stressful, tragic disconnect between the "perfect minority" image her father demanded of the family and the naturally messy behind-the-scenes family life shaped by individuals with unique desires and troubles.
In her memoir They Called Us Exceptional, Prachi Gupta explores her Indian American culture, her parents' expectations, society's pressures, and the fiction that her family attempted to portray of being perfect--despite conflict, messy moments, and Gupta's need to be seen for who she really was.
The book begins with Gupta's apology to her mother for airing the family's dirty laundry rather than writing the book as a novel. She explains that only by telling the truth in this way does she have any hope of allowing others to live their truths as well.
The book itself is directed to Gupta's mother, and Gupta explains to her mother the reality of past events, her points of view, and her reactions to various occurrences in a way that emphasizes her estrangement from her parents--and her particular pain in being distant from her mother.
Gupta explores the intense stress of being forced--through verbal abuse, violence, emotional blackmail, and more avenues--to comply with her father's often-volatile whims, his desire for Prachi to adhere to his stringent (and sometimes seemingly random) "model minority myth" standards, and his will in all things.
She contrasts this with her father's presentation to the world of his generosity, wisdom, and graceful success--and outlines her long-held shame at this disconnect and at her inability to fit the mold as set for her, while knowing she was and is incapable of doing so.
Her father uses his mental illness to emotionally manipulate the family, then demands that no one outside the household know about it. He lays out a history of familial depression and suicidal thoughts as though the occurrence is inevitable for his children, which haunts Prachi--and seems to singularly take hold of her brother Yush.
This is a memoir in which Prachi wrestles her fate--as messy, imperfect, and wonderfully independent as she wishes it to be--back into her own hands, while facing the tragic fallout of her family's years of dysfunction and difficulty as well as the consequences and freedom of her departure from the heart of the family.
I listened to Prachi Gupta's They Called Us Exceptional as an audiobook.
Do you have any Bossy thoughts about this book?
If you like to read memoirs, you might be interested in the titles on my various memoir-focused Greedy Reading Lists: