An award-winning writer retraces her dysfunctional, biracial, globe-trotting family’s journey as she reckons with ethnicity and belonging, diversity and race, and the complexities of life within a multicultural household.
ALMOST BROWN: A Memoir
by Charlotte Gill
Crown, June 2023
Charlotte Gill’s father is Indian. Her mother is English. They meet in 1960’s London when the world is not quite ready for interracial love. Their union, a revolutionary act, results in a total meltdown of familial relations, a lot of immigration paperwork, and three children, all in varying shades of tan. Together they set off on a journey from the United Kingdom to Canada and to the United States in elusive pursuit of life, liberty, and happiness—a dream that eventually tears them apart.
ALMOST BROWN is an exploration of diasporic intermingling involving parents of two different races and their half-brown children as they experience the paradoxes and conundrums of life as it’s lived between race checkboxes. Eventually, her parents drift apart because they just aren’t compatible. But as she finds herself distancing from her father too—why is she embarrassed to walk down the street with him and not her mom?—she doesn’t know if it’s because of his personality or his race. As a mixed-race child, was this her own unconscious bias favoring one parent over the other in the racial tug-of-war that plagues our society? ALMOST BROWN looks for answers to questions shared by many mixed-race people: What are you? What does it mean to be a person of color when the concept is a societal invention and really only applies halfway if you are half white? And how does your relationship with your parents change as you change and grow older?
In a funny, turbulent, and ultimately heartwarming story, Gill examines the brilliant messiness of ancestry, “diversity,” and the idea of “race,” a historical concept that still informs our beliefs about ethnicity today.
Charlotte Gill is a bestselling and award-winning writer of fiction and narrative nonfiction. Ladykiller, her first book, was the recipient of the Danuta Gleed Award for short fiction. Eating Dirt, a tree-planting memoir, was a #1 national bestseller in Canada. Her work has appeared in Vogue and Hazlitt. Gill teaches writing in the MFA program in creative nonfiction at the University of King’s College and is the Rogers Communications Chair of Literary Journalism at the Banff Centre for Arts and Creativity. She lives in British Columbia, Canada.