Jasmine, a novel by Bharati Mukherjee, tells the story of an Indian woman’s journey to America and her experience becoming an American. The protagonist, Jyoti (aka Jasmine, aka Jane) endures microaggressions and discovers the horrible truth of America as she realizes the country is not as welcoming as the brochures in India made it seem. In a quote from the novel, Jasmine describes how she is physically characterized in America. “They want to make me familiar. In a pinch, they’ll admit that I might look a little different, that I’m a ‘dark-haired girl’ in a naturally blond county. I have a ‘darkish complexion’ (in India, I’m ‘wheatish’)” (Mukherjee 33). Reading this novel, and especially this quote, reminded me of the tendency Americans have to classify people by skin tone and the desire to see everyone as either black or white. In India, Jasmine is seen as a lighter skinned woman, but in America they categorize her and label her “dark-skinned” and “different.” This idea was also mentioned in class when we watched the film “An Island Divided,” where the narrator Professor Gates comments, “in America all these people would be black” while walking down a street in the Dominican Republic, even though most Dominicans identify with Spain rather than Africa. It’s strange that in America we are told to “never judge a book by its cover,” yet people are still constantly classified by their physical appearances.
Mukherjee, Bharati. Jasmine. Virago Press, 2014.
Haiti & Dominican Republic. Dir. Ricardo Pollack. PBS, 2011. Kanopy. Web. 18 Feb. 2018.