Unwanted! is the memoir of an Anglo-Indian daughter of a Roman Catholic priest. The transgressions of her birth and the birth of her sister during the mid-twentieth century, of having a father who was supposed to be celibate, was severe in the eyes of society at the time; and so she suffered discrimination from the Hindus of India, who did not share her Christian religion and accused her of having loose morality because of her father, and the Church itself, which refused to allow her to become a nun or help her struggle to survive in poverty.
She and her sister were declared orphans at a young age even though their parents were alive; a childhood robbed of innocence and burdened with undeserved guilt prompted her into an ill-fated marriage to a chronic liar with a verbally abusive personality. Yet despite her hardships, she found the resilience to pursue a teaching career, raise children (one born intellectually and physically handicapped due to her husband's genetic background), and eventually forge a new life for herself in the unfamiliar land of Australia.
At last she experienced the miracle of contact with relatives from her father's side - though he was a distant figure and a poor father to her, who kept her existence secret for many years, the truth came out after his death and she experienced what she had always dreamed of: being part of a large, respectable and loving family.
Unwanted! is a compelling true story, from the perspective of a woman who struggled against poverty, discrimination, and being an outcast in two worlds, yet whose achievements and hard-learned lessons speak for themselves.
This autobiography is a powerful work written by a courages author, but it requires the reader to cope with a mass of minutiae and the authors encyclopedic memory recalling events and conversation set pieces in microscopic detail. Father Michael Lyons was sent back to the US when Esther was four years old, never to return to India. The author did not know who her father was until she discovered files establishing the truth. She was 16. Until then she had been aware of being unwanted, something of a scandal, living in near poverty. The church authorities were kind but kept her at a distance and the Anglo-Indian attitude of maintaining respectability at all costs gives a profound glimpse into this sub culture.
The search for her father is an account of great determination against almost unbelievable odds. Her experience as a single teacher at Carnarvon High School in NW Australia maybe amusing for the Australian reader and underlines the casual promiscuity that we take for granted in western culture. Despite the minutiae mentioned earlier the reader will be encouraged by the triumph of the human spirit.
Statesman of India
For the reader interested in the interplay of different cultures the author provides a quite detailed description of events in her life and how they impacted on her. The reader is given an impression, by the characters in the book, of a style of English spoken during the 1940's and 1950's in India by the Anglo-Indians. Further, many of their behaviours and actions are explained in terms of the socio-cultural milieu that operated at the time. The Anglo-Indians had their own subculture and much of this subculture with its own values, lifestyle and way of talking are captured here.
The author describes a number of interesting and amusing experiences and it helps to understand them if one has lived in the subcontinent. One such incident was when she was accused of being a Pakistani spy by a railway guard because she was carrying a suspicious package. It turned out that the package was a transistor radio that she had bought for her mother. Another issue that she raises is that of the double standard that often characterises people. While condemning somebody else for not living by particular standards we tend to be much more forgiving of ourselves when we transgress those standards.
While I have reservations about the emphasis placed on the author's beginnings as the love child of an American Jesuit priest and an Indian Catholic nun I believe many people will find the book interesting for other reasons. It describes a place and a time that lives on only in the memories of many people. The India of today is a vastly different place to that in the 1940's and 1950's and the Anglo-Indians and Indians of today are a very different people.
Melbourne VIC Australia
What an extraordinary story!! Thank
you for being force enough to write such a powerful, inspiring
story. Written by a lady of great gifts - courage, truth,
integrity, intelligence, forgiveness...
It is probably the most
frank and honest account that I have ever read by an Anglo-Indian.
That is what makes it unique. It holds the readers interest
all the way through.
A highly recommended read.
Very few autobiographies are written with such candour, artistry
and intense passion as this one. Esther Mary Lyons has packed
her story with unbelievable details and weaved an intricate
and emotive plot with consummate ease.
The story allows the reader to perceive it from many different points of view: some may identify with the actual events and relate them to their own experience; some may see oppression of a woman by man; some may see a mother's devotion and love for her children....
French Canadian Historical Society of Michigan
The book offers valuable
insights into what is like growing up in Indian-Christian
and Anglo-Indian Communities in Norther India.
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