THE PLOT: Brown Baby by Nikesh Shukla is a memoir in the format of essays to his infant daughter. Covering everything from race to gender to the end of the world, Shukla looks at how to raise a mixed-race child with his trademark humour and wit. A beautifully moving book, as well as discussing parenting and his own upbringing, this memoir deals with grief. Through this book, Shukla mourns his mother and asks how to raise a child while reflecting on the loss of his own parent.
RATING: This book gets four stars because it’s entertaining yet thought-provoking as it deals with a myriad of issues seamlessly. From recounting racist slurs thrown at his child to humorous anecdotes about his Indian heritage (note – in Nigerian households the butter and ice creams tubs are filled with rice too), Shukla opens up his life on the page.
GOOD BITS: At its’ heart, this is a book about grief. The loss of Shukla’s mother is infused in every single page and you can feel him grappling to comprehend her passing in all of his actions. Their relationship was complex but there’s so much love, which makes it beautiful to read. As much as it’s a book for his daughter, it’s an attempt to explain himself – the core of who he is and what he stands for – to his mother, expressed through how he is choosing to raise his own child.
NOT SO GOOD BITS: Please note, I received an uncorrected proof of this book so some of my minor criticisms might not be present in the final version. However, I felt some areas were repetitive and, if I was blessed enough to be an editor, I would have shuffled some of the content around.
OVERALL: This is not a traditional memoir. Do not expect an account of Shukla’s life from birth. Instead, this book is something more. It’s part-question, part-advice, with intimate snippets from a life that gives you raw and honest insight into Shukla as a person. It asks: what do you do when your four-year-old daughter says brown is a dirty colour or asserts imbibed differences between girls and boys? And, it provides some realistic ruminations instead of answers. I’d highly recommend this book if you are a burgeoning or new parent, particularly to a mixed-race child, and wondering how to raise them in such confusing times. But I’d particularly suggest you read this if you are dealing with the loss of a parent. I hope it gives you some comfort.
Thank you to Bluebird Books for Life for sending me a proof copy of this book to review. Brown Baby will be published on 4th February 2021 and is available for pre-order online.