With charming wit and remarkable transparency, Nishta Mehra summons us into the world of a woman who identifies with a number of cultures, both compatible and conflicting, in her debut book, The Pomegranate King.
Mehra’s work is a compilation of essays in which she shares with us what it’s like growing up a first-generation daughter of Indian immigrants, as well as being a lesbian raised in the South. These essays act as snapshots comprising a big-picture view of Mehra’s life thus far. From growing up in the upper-middle class where more often than not she was the only person of color in her group of acquaintances to her college experience, from being outed by her mother and not accepted by her father to finding a partner with whom she falls in love and has a child. These essays give a refreshingly authentic take on how she approaches her identity, embraces community, articulates her beliefs, and comes face to face with the death of her beloved father.
The writing creates a sacred space for readers to contemplate the human experience, saturated with many forms of love, ways of grieving, and finding community as we allow ourselves to change and grow with every new encounter. Her inviting language allows a place for each of us to identify with a number of occurrences so expressive of the overall human experience.
Mehra’s story will have distinct resonance among young women who identify with the same struggle that she reflects throughout the book. Growing up queer in a heteronormative society makes it difficult to find acceptance. In one essay, Straight Definition, she delves into the coming to terms with her own sexuality and how her background and surroundings affected her acceptance of her identity. Other essays explore a number of topics universal in a sense that we all can relate but very much unique to her personal journey.
Each essay provides us with some significant insight — whether it is a reflection on the profound effect death has upon us, or how we are inevitably the product of all our history, surroundings, and experiences. Mehra does more than merely tell her story artistically: she reveals to us valuable lessons about the aspects of life that matter most.
“This is the bargain we are all supposed to accept: you will learn to love something, and then it will die.” Mehra raises the question, Why would we want to make ourselves vulnerable if it means that right when we learn to love something or someone wholeheartedly, we open ourselves to the possibility of agony once our guard is let down? The most valuable lesson we are taught is that although questions such as these are seemingly inexplicable, love transcends boundaries, and in the end, no answer will suffice.
Nishta Mehra’s story is one so relatable but at the same time very much unparalleled. Her graceful and expressive writing style makes for an easy read, yet her personality and lovable character emanates from every sentence she writes. It is easy to find profound meaning in the wisdom that Mehra exemplifies throughout this book. And while every person’s journey differs in unique ways, we can all learn a significant amount about our own through the words in The Pomegranate King.
JADE MILLER is a Senior studying Journalism at George Fox University in Newberg, Oregon. She is passionate about art and photography, and aspires to combine her talents and interests to inspire LGBT youth to find comfort in their own skin and to follow their dreams.