The author of Brown White Black: An American Family at the Intersection of Race, Gender, Sexuality, and Religion, Nishta Mehra spoke on “Brown White Black: Living Authentically” at a virtual Society of Skeptics on September 22, beginning at 7 p.m. To view her full presentation, please click below:
Ms. Mehra is the first-generation daughter of Indian immigrants; her wife, Dr. Jill Carroll, is white; and her adopted child, Shiv, is Black. In Brown White Black, she paints a portrait of her family through essays on motherhood, marriage, love and acceptance.
The book’s description on its publisher’s website highlights how Ms. Mehra’s “clear-eyed and incisive writing on her family's daily struggle to make space for themselves amid racial intolerance and stereotypes personalizes some of America's most fraught issues.” Published in 2019, Brown White Black is Ms. Mehra’s second book, as she penned The Pomegranate King in 2013. In addition to her work as an author, Ms. Mehra teaches high school English.
Reflecting on the topic of her Skeptics presentation, Ms. Mehra offered Blair community members some advice on living authentically. “It’s taken me a long to realize that my relationship with myself is the most important relationship I’ll ever have in my life,” she said. “Culturally, I think we conflate knowing ourselves with being self-obsessed or self-centered, when, in fact, the more at ease and at home I feel with myself, the more I can show up in service to or support of others. Likewise, without the courage to look carefully at myself, I have little access or ability to examine my behaviors and patterns to see if I am truly living in line with my values. We tend to be destination-oriented, thinking that we will ‘arrive’ at a place of being our most authentic selves, but the truth, I think, is that this is a lifelong process or approach of curiosity and humility.”
By sharing her story with the Blair family, along with what she has learned, Ms. Mehra hoped that audience members would find points of resonance for themselves and opportunities to think about their own lives more deeply or in a new way. “Perhaps I allowed them to acknowledge themselves or see themselves newly; perhaps I gave them permission to change their minds about something,” she said. “My most basic hope was for genuine human connection; as Elizabeth Alexander writes in her poem Ars Poetica #100: I Believe, ‘[A]re we not of interest to each other?’”
The Society of Skeptics was established as a forum for students and faculty to discuss and debate important global issues; it has grown to become one of the premier high school lecture series in the United States. Each week, speakers from the political, social, scientific, economic and literary arenas share their unique perspectives with students, who are encouraged to engage with presenters, asking questions and debating points of view.
The program, which is funded in part by The Class of 1968 Society of Skeptics Endowment Fund, was an outgrowth of the Blair International Society, begun in 1937. Forty years later, former history department chair Elliott Trommald, PhD, Hon. ’65, established the modern Skeptics program as a regular forum for student discussion and debate; history teacher Martin Miller, PhD, took over in the mid-1980s and molded the program into a weekly lecture series, one that has since continued without interruption. Under the tutelage of Dr. Miller and his successor, history department chair Jason Beck, Skeptics has featured a wide variety of speakers who are engaging, accomplished in their respective fields and often controversial. For a listing of upcoming Skeptics programs, please click here.