Ask LIE: How do I give my daughter a sense of her Indian culture?

MaryD

Dear Love Isn’t Enough,

I just discovered your blog “Love Isn’t Enough”

It struck a big chord with me as a Cuban-American woman (who only recently in life came to assume my Cuban-ness) living in Paris, France, with a half-Indian (from southern India) three and a half year-old daughter. I have been trying to think of ways to give my daughter (who holds French and American nationality) a sense of Indian culture without it being too much (“What is too much?” is the first question that pops up). I would like to do so because her father rarely does anything cultural with her, much less Indian and cultural–he plays with her a lot instead– sports, games, and the like.

My own American-Cuban-French mix comes across quite easily (we dance salsa, we sing folk songs, we make pancakes, we go to museums, etc). But though I have researched its history and customs quite a bit, Indian, specifically southern Indian, culture remains a bit of an enigma. One big problem is that I am a profound feminist, and there is much in Indian culture that is radically anti-woman, particularly anti-progressive-woman-with-her-own-ideas. There is also much that is fantastically beautiful (dance, clothing) and spiritual.

I guess my question to you would be: do you know where I might be able to find resources that would be good for giving my young daughter a sense of the beauty and depth of the Indian culture whilst avoiding such ideas as “widows must throw themselves onto their dead husbands’ burning pyres”? Also, where to draw the line? One cultural activity per week? month? day? etc..

Best regards from Paris,

M.D.

From the Editor:

I am going to leave this question to LIE readers to answer. Particularly, the parents of children of mixed-heritage may have especially insightful suggestions.

I will say that I think your worries about separating sexism from Indian culture may be a result of  you viewing that culture from the outside. Certainly American culture, Latin cultures, European cultures, African American cultures are all riddled with gender bias (most ALL cultures, sadly, are). But I think when we are part of a culture, it is easier to a) not inflate its negative aspects, while b) navigating its negative aspects and imparting the most important elements of culture to our children.

Tami

Readers? Can you give this mom some help?

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About Tami

Tami Winfrey Harris writes about race, feminism, politics and pop culture at the blog What Tami Said. Her work has also appeared online at The Guardian’s Comment is Free, Ms. Magazine blog, Newsweek, Change.org, Huffington Post and Racialicious. She is a graduate of the Iowa State University Greenlee School of Journalism. She is mom to two awesome stepkids and spends her spare time researching her family history and cultivating a righteous 'fro.
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