How do you attempt to juggle three cultural identities? Zoya Patel is Fijian-Indian. She was born in Suva, Fiji and moved to Australia with her family when she was three years old.
She has little memory of her early life in Fiji, although her family would plan a trip 'home' every year. Meanwhile, growing up in Australia, Zoya was always conscious of how her family was different from her friends' families. Her family fits the stereotypical image of hard working Indians who aspired to a better life for their family in Australia. Her parents have owned and run six businesses, where the entire family helped out and this shaped her own work ethic. However, by her teen years, Zoya spent all year trying to fit in with her Australian friends yet struggled with the forced cultural immersion in Fiji where she wore Indian clothes and spoke only Hindu.
As an adult Zoya was nervous about returning to Fiji on holiday with friends, but also felt a strong sense of homecoming. Poignantly, she shares what it felt like sitting on a bus, while everyone outside, who looked like her, was occupying a world completely unlike hers.
Zoya compares her privileged status with families who never had the ability to migrate for economic opportunities. She examines how her easily life could have taken a different turn and she could have been living in confronting poverty. Regardless, in Australia, Fiji or India she is always asked where she is from?
Writing from the perspective of an Australian who is never considered one, Zoya intelligently explores issues of feminism, migrant guilt and religion. Expatriate or migrant? She challenges society's need to define us.
No Country Woman is the story of cultural disconnection. It's about living in a multicultural society with a monocultural focus, but being determined to be heard. This is the ultimate memoir in not belonging and what it means to never feel at home where you live.
Zoya Patel is the founding editor of independent feminist journal, Feminartsy and is based in Canberra.
Reviewer: Andrea Molloy Hachette New Zealand, RRP $37.99