Make sure they were poor and even if not,
make sure they were poor at some point.
This especially important if you are Brahmin:
no one wants to hear about the white people
who aren’t kind to you in the airport. You’re
in the fucking airport. Do you hear yourself?
If your parents love each other, say that. If
your parents do not love each other, lie. If
your parents were in an arranged marriage,
you’ll need a good vignette about them bonding
over Blade Runner in theaters, blasting Foreigner
on the radio on the way to the bank in the sedan given to them by kindly
neighbors. White people in the 80s were cool, maybe
because you could still buy quaaludes and the coke
was wicked. Make sure at least one of your parents
has a charming talent or hobby like sewing or
violin. Don’t make them athletes in the pool, bankers, chefs,
or soldiers. Nothing too aggressive or ambitious.
Erase the part where your mother gives up her
career to care for the children; say she only wanted
to be a mom. Don’t mention her Olympic-caliber track
records, and omit the botched knee surgery. No worries
if your parents didn’t party or do any cool drugs;
Americans like their immigrants squeaky clean.
Leave out the part about your mom throwing
up on New Year’s Eve, how your dad opens the door and places
her limp in the shower as there was nowhere else to sit
in the studio apartment. If you had a violent childhood,
remove the kitchen utensils from all the fights but one.
Be sure to mention the war, any war. Just as long
as there’s war. At your book signing, white people
will ask you if your parents are proud. You’ll loudly
say something like HA HA, IN THEIR OWN WAY,
YEAH! Your cover needs no less than three of the
following: paisley, peacock feathers, Ganesha,
gold leaf, Buddha, an oil lamp, incense, the ocean,
and/or your mother and father, waving goodbye.
Rita Mookerjee is an Assistant Professor of Interdisciplinary Studies at Worcester State University. She is the author of False Offering (JackLeg Press 2023). Her poems can be found in CALYX, Copper Nickel, New Orleans Review, the Offing, and Poet Lore. She serves as an editor at Split Lip Magazine, Sundress Publications, and Honey Literary.