When you grow up as a brown-skinned kid of brown-skinned migrants in a majority white-skinned country, you can’t help but wonder what all the fuss is about. After all, you speak with a broad Strayn accent. You wear the same clothes and barrack for the same football teams and follow the same road rules. You are as white as they are even if they don’t think so. And even if sometimes you don’t think so.
But at least when you come home, you don’t stand out. Your parents pronounce your name correctly, and it’s quite cool to speak in a language other than English.
I hate to imagine what it must have been like for Latika Bourke growing up in Bathurst the brown-skinned Bihari child to white-skinned Catholic Aussie parents.
But my imagination in Latika’s case turned out to be completely off mark. For starters, the idea that parents who adopt from another culture cannot nurture and love their “foreign” child as well is complete hogwash.
Latika has nothing but praise for her parents, and has had an amazing upbringing and sufficient opportunities for her to fulfil her career aspirations.
Born in 1984, by the time she arrived in Australia at 8 months old Latika had already been cared for by a bunch of very kind-hearted Indian nuns.
Latika’s parents decided to adopt after their second (biological) daughter had been diagnosed with cystic fibrosis.
Latika’s book outlines in great detail the emotional roller coaster ride her parents went through when her adoption was being processed.
After one possible adoptee was placed with another family and with numerous obstacles from Indian authorities for Latika’s adoption, it seemed almost a miracle for this young baby for Bihar to land in Bathurst.
Latika lived in a large eclectic family (7 siblings!) filled with plenty of laughter and even more love. Despite her mother’s best efforts, Latika showed no interest in finding out about her mother’s homeland. Bathurst, not Bihar, was home.
Today Latika is one of the most prominent political journalists in Australia, pioneering the use of twitter to break big stories.
Her journalistic career was rising and she had won a Walkley Award, a friend decided to show her the movie Slumdog Millionaire. For some reason, watching that film made Latika wonder what her life could have been like had she not been adopted.
Her first visit to India as an adult challenged Latika to the core.
“In Australia, religion can be sterile, compartmentalised, dull and devoid of relevance, but in India religion is everywhere, and I mean everywhere”.
And her biological mother? “I still suspect that some sort of sexual assault lay behind her decision to give me up”.
This is a really special book written in accessible language. She tackles identity without identity politics and racism without obtuse critical race theory.