“8 Memoirs by Women Writers about Cross-Cultural Identity and Belonging”: an Electric Literature reading list by Sorayya Khan
“Elegant and richly remembered, [We Take Our Cities with Us] offers a poignant tribute to the complex beauty of inherited histories.” —Publishers Weekly
“The narrative is poignant, lyrical, and insightful, drawing readers into the details of the author’s physical and emotional landscapes. … A poetic memoir about a biracial author’s international life.” —Kirkus
“A heartfelt love story not just of her parents, but also of the places where Khan and her family have lived.” —Susan Blumberg-Kason, Asian Review of Books
“We Take Our Cities with Us is a memoir of uncommon delicacy and emotional force: Sorayya Khan illuminates her hybrid legacy and international upbringing, braiding the multiple threads of her complex identity. This is an intimate, beautiful, and lasting book.” —Claire Messud
“We Take Our Cities with Us is an exquisite memoir, a dazzling exploration of time, place, and self. I loved it.” —Lily King
“With grace and power, this mesmerizing memoir swirls from continent to continent, decade to decade, through a journey of identity, memory, loyalty, and loss. Part map, part family tree, We Take Our Cities with Us provides an intimate glimpse into what it means to make a home in the global modern age. Sorayya Khan is an exquisite storyteller.” —Eleanor Henderson
“This extraordinary memoir traverses a deeply personal terrain dotted with questions of identity, culture, and belonging. Khan engrosses the reader with myriad journeys, histories, and piercing insights. Thoroughly gratifying.” —Raza Rumi, author of Delhi by Heart: Impressions of a Pakistani Traveller
“This is a rich, wise, deeply moving reflection on cities that are both home to migrants and themselves migrants, having morphed into barely recognizable versions of their former selves. The ghosts of other times and places haunt the characters in this memoir. Sometimes that haunting is a reminder of what has been lost forever, but sometimes it can also be a consolation: even as our passports root us in one place, our curiosities, loves, and longings can make unexpected connections across supposedly insurmountable borders.” —Jonathan Gil Harris, author of The First Firangis: Remarkable Stories of Heroes, Healers, Charlatans, Courtesans and Other Foreigners Who Became Indian
Even when we leave them, our cities never leave us. After her Dutch mother’s death, Sorayya Khan confronts her grief by revisiting their relationship, her parents’ lives, and her own Pakistani-Dutch heritage in a multicultural memoir that unfolds over seven cities and three continents. We Take Our Cities with Us ushers us from Khan’s childhood independence forged at her grandparents’ home in Lahore; to her adolescence in Pakistan’s new capital, Islamabad; to Syracuse and Ithaca, New York, where Khan finds her footing as the mother of young, brown sons in post-9/11 America; to her birthplace, Vienna, where her parents die; and finally to Amsterdam and Maastricht, the cities of her mother’s conflicted youth. In Khan’s gripping telling of her immigrant experience, she shows us what it is to raise children and lose parents in worlds other than your own. Drawing on family history, geopolitics, and art in this stunning story of loss, identity, and rediscovery, Khan beautifully illuminates the complexities of our evolving global world and its most important constant: love.
Sorayya Khan is the author of the novels City of Spies, Five Queen’s Road, and Noor. The daughter of a Pakistani father and a Dutch mother, she was born in Europe, grew up in Pakistan, and now lives in Ithaca, New York, with her family. She is a Visiting Fellow at Cornell University. Find her at sorayyakhan.com.
Photo credit: Barbara Adams