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  • Inaccurate and questionable

    See No Stranger, A Memoir and Manifesto of Revolutionary Loveby Valarie Kaur-----------------------------------------------------------------------------------------book review by gurdhyan singh  Valarie Kaur’s book, See No Stranger: A Memoir and Manifesto of Revolutionary Love, is “foranyone who feels breathless.” She first thought her breathlessness revealed her weakness until her wise friend told her, “Your breathlessness is a sign of your bravery.” The memoir narrates her discovery of revolutionary love on her journey of awakening. The memoir's formulation rests on what is moral and strategic for her. Her moral paradigm is a liberal worldview, and her strategic is what advances her personally and professionally. The memoir’s catchy title entices a potential reader’s interest with the understanding that thememoir deals with infinite compassion and unconditional love in times of crisis that can be used to solve America’s well-known social, economic, cultural, environmental, and politicalproblems. The memoir does not offer innovative and compassionate solutions; rather, it suggests replacing conservative ideals with liberal ideals. Valarie’s compassionate worldview excludes conservatives, tea party activists, racists, misogynists, traditionalists, and all others who fall outside her worldview. The memoir does not seem to be meant for Sikhs; and has successfully targeted primarily thebroad spectrum of the well-educated, white liberal, progressive, and left segments of thepopulace. Still a potential Sikh reader who has heard of Valarie and her work, may expect tolearn from her experiences in putting compassion, one of the core tenets of the Sikh faith, inpractice. She not only fails that Sikh reader but raises fundamental questions and doubts about the Sikh faith, its divine foundation and practices, and the Sikh faith’s relevance in thecontemporary world. Regardless of her intentions, the memoir represents her narrow version of the Sikh faith to both Sikhs and non-Sikhs alike. It lacks the reverential and devotional vibe one might expect in such a memoir. Valarie gives an impression that her memoir is driven by an intense compassion emanating from a bleeding heart, but it is a calculated, philosophical masterpiece. Every letter, word,punctuation, and metaphor is marvellously woven into a dream-like tapestry. She interweaves the story of her personal evolution, her relationship with the Sikh faith, and her professional growth in a unique style that deludes the common reader. She discloses partial facts on most issues dealing with the Sikh faith and makes her own conclusions based thereupon, which results in inaccurate representations about the Sikh faith. In the memoir, she omits any inquiry into the appropriateness of her choices throughout her life, and avoids accepting responsibility for her actions, a hallmark of western culture and a core value of the Sikh faith. She downplays her own privilege and overplays her and her family's sacrifices. Valarie is likely to mesmerize her liberal readership and to lose a dispassionate and independent reader’s trust due to her self-righteous and self-absorption. For Sikh readers, it is going to be a challenge to cope with perplexing representations of the Sikh faith. She makes efforts to create an ideal image of herself as a Sikh warrior-sage, without adhering to any Sikh religious practices. The memoir tells the story of a suffering Sikh woman, which is a sadly common experience of women everywhere, with a Sikh subtext lingering in the background. The memoir describes her inability to reconcile her exhausting experiences of womanhood with the Sikh faith. Her deep pain and anguish, resulting from racist childhood bullying, sexual harassment as an adolescent, and discrimination as a woman of color can have psychological ramifications and leave long lasting impacts unless treated or healed. Her description of these painful events is disturbing and revealing. In the process of growing into the woman she is today, she finds more comfort in the individual freedoms of modern liberalism than in the warmth of Sikh faith. Her professional and activist credentials as a civil rights lawyer and documentary filmmaker are top-notch, having attended three elite universities: Stanford University, Harvard Divinity School, and Yale Law School. Yet, she chastises others in her community who pursue higher academic earning in “safe careers” such as the medical fields when, in fact, being an attorney out of Yale is itself a guarantee for a safe career in private, public, or international law. Her story reminds of the privilege of education, opportunities, and of the potential benefits of being born in that context Her memoir is not a required read for Sikhs and non-Sikhs alike, but they may choose to read it.

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