BOOKS: By Barbara Lloyd McMichael
How May I Help You? – Deepak Singh
University of California Press – 305 pp - $24.95
Deepak Singh had already earned a prestigious MBA in his native India and built a career working as a radio producer for the British Broadcasting Corporation when he met an American woman who had come to India on a Fulbright scholarship. They fell in love and decided to get married, and then Singh followed his wife back to the United States so she could continue her graduate studies in Virginia.
After months of unsuccessfully looking for work in his own field, Singh got a job instead working at an electronics store in the local mall. His new book, “How May I Help You?” reflects the experience of many immigrants to the U.S. who discover that they have to downsize their dreams and find service work, even if they were highly regarded professionals in the countries of their birth.
This anecdote-filled account shares Singh’s documentation not only of his own downward mobility, but also the stories of others who find themselves stuck in low-wage jobs with scarce opportunity for advancement and little in the way of a safety net. It also tells about the vagaries of working in an American retail environment – from making sales to processing returns and stocking shelves, from calling in sick to working Black Friday.
In “How May I Help You?” Singh compares the values of both his birth country and his adopted country by noticing the way people shop, the way they treat their family members, and the way they perform their work. This consideration of racism and caste, nativism and immigration, and the disparity of the work experience is gently told but sharply perceptive.
It’s also worth noting that Singh has found his way back into radio – you’ll find his reports on the Charlottesville Podcasting Network as well as Public Radio International.
Barbara Lloyd McMichael is our ground reporter in South King County, Wash., and author of the syndicated book review column “The Bookmonger.” Her PR for People® Book Review is written exclusively for The Connector.