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Rich, the author of The Red Devil: To Hell with Cancer-and Back, recounts in this wonderful memoir her subsequent life's journey: immersing herself in the transformative complexities of learning Hindi. Fired from her New York City magazine job, palpating the possibility of being a full-time writer and tempted by the "foolproof out" that was traveling to India, Rich ensconced herself in a yearlong language program in Udaipur, in the northwest state of Rajasthan, where with three other students she struggled to get her brain, and tongue, around the disorienting "monsoon of words" in the total immersion program. A delicate balance of social graces determined success or failure, as the author learned painfully when she felt compelled to relocate from the home of her host family, an extended Jain clan, because of misunderstanding over her nonmarried status. Fluidly interspersed within her witty, tongue-in-cheek account of the nutty fellow students and nosy, however well-meaning, Indian spectators are comments and elucidation on second-language acquisition from experts, and observations while visiting a school for the deaf. Homesick, rattled by the violence, Rich nonetheless arrived at making jokes and actually dreaming in Hindi, and in her deft and spirited prose depicts being literally "possessed by words." (July) (c) Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved
From Booklist, Copyright © American Library Association. Used with permission.
On one level, Rich's capacious memoir of the time she spent in India learning the Hindi language is about just that: the inevitable confusion that ensues when an adult well beyond college years tries to learn a second language. On every other level, however, it is so much more: a judiciously researched treatise on the nature of linguistics; an imaginative paean to the wondrous alchemy of language; and, most of all, a revelatory and often disturbing exposé of the dark side of cultural immersion. Having recently been fired as editor of a respected magazine and still recovering from cancer treatment, Rich was on admittedly shaky ground when she began her mission. But as she deftly rationalized, the best time to venture into the unknown is precisely when what passes for normal no longer is recognizable a surrealism that was compounded by the tragedy of 9/11 shortly after she arrived in India. Piquant, frank, and penetrating, Rich's intricate memoir is as beguiling and mesmerizing as language itself.--Haggas, Carol Copyright 2009 Booklist