After a life lived in numerous countries as an “in-between” citizen of the world, M.G. Vassanji came to Canada first as a physicist, then as one of our most honoured authors. He has won the Giller twice, a Commonwealth Writers Prize and was made a Member of the Order of Canada. But these awards were all for his fiction; A Place Within is Vassanji’s first foray into non-fiction and it is an impressive success even at its worst.
Born to ex-pat Indian parents in Kenya, A Place Within is an exploration of a heritage that Vassanji yearned to experience. The breadth of what he is trying to accomplish – understanding India – is never lost in this travelogue/memoir of his journeys; the diversity of modern India is not easily understood by anyone.
The narrative strings twelve years of notes, journal entries and observations into one complete narrative. His success with this book is no small feat considering the growing sub-genre of authors exploring their respective histories – something our author has risen above. By managing to avoid the traditional clichés and pitfalls of self-examining memoirs, Vassanji has effectively explored the realities of modern India while trying to define his own place in it.