Dreaming in Hindi: Coming Awake in Another Language (Hardcover)

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An eye-opening and courageous memoir that explores what learning a new language can teach us about distant worlds and, ultimately, ourselves.


After miraculously surviving a serious illness, Katherine Rich found herself at an impasse in her career as a magazine editor. She spontaneously accepted a freelance writing assignment to go to India, where she found herself thunderstruck by the place and the language, and before she knew it she was on her way to Udaipur, a city in the northwestern state of Rajasthan, in order to learn Hindi. Rich documents her experiences—ranging from the bizarre to the frightening to the unexpectedly exhilarating—using Hindi as the lens through which she is given a new perspective not only on India, but on the radical way the country and the language itself were changing her. Fascinated by the process, she went on to interview linguistics experts around the world, reporting back from the frontlines of the science wars on what happens in the brain when we learn a new language. She brings both of these experiences together seamlessly in Dreaming in Hindi, a remarkably unique and thoughtful account of self-discovery.

About the Author

KATHERINE RUSSELL RICH was the award-winning author of The Red Devil: To Hell with Cancer—and Back. She wrote for the New York Times Magazine, the Washington Post, Slate, and Vogue, and taught writing at Lesley University in Cambridge, Massachusetts, until her death in 2012 after a nearly quarter-century battle with breast cancer.

Praise For…

"[A] wonderful memoir ... Fluidly interspersed within her witty, tongue-in-cheek account of the nutty fellow students and nosy, however well-meaning, Indian spectators are comments and elucidation on second-language acquisition from experts, and observations while visiting a school for the deaf. Homesick, rattled by the violence, Rich nonetheless arrived at making jokes and actually dreaming in Hindi, and in her deft and spirited prose depicts being literally 'possessed by words.'"

— Publishers Weekly (starred)

"Rich, with her wonderful journalist's eye, hands over the experience of language and culture so beautifully, it's okay for the rest of us to stay home."

— Louisa Ermelino

"In her deftly written memoir, DREAMING IN HINDI, Rich makes us wish we to could come alive in a foreign world, fearless of mistakes, misperceptions and mishaps, and enlivened by the unfamiliar ... a natural journalist, [Rich] gracefully sprinkles reportage about neuroscience and linguistics, as well as her own poignant insights, into her narrative."

— Elle

"Fortified with neuroscience and laced with humor, DREAMING IN HINDI is a crash course in emotional agility, in an understanding too deep for words."

— O, The Oprah Magazine

"…a charming intellectual travelogue, partly about the culture and history of India, partly about the nature of language and language learning, and also, as usual for great travel writing, very much about its author…. ‘I ski Hindi,’ [Rich writes and] elsewhere in the book, she skis psycholinguistics, in long, gleeful conversations in university laboratories and the pages of books and articles; and just about every other language-related discipline gets at least one downhill run as well."

— Mark Liberman

"DREAMING IN HINDI: Coming Awake in Another Language…is a riveting memoir about an American woman who spends a year in Rajasthan learning Hindi. The book illuminates the truth that when we learn a language, we learn an entire culture. One of the best foreign observers of contemporary India, Rich's gaze on the country is witty, empathetic, and intimate."

— Suketu Mehta

"...a work that will inevitably be compared to Elizabeth Gilbert’s "Eat, Pray, Love"...it traces the far-flung adventures of a thoughtful, soul-searching single woman from New York."

— Susan Dominus

Product Details
ISBN: 9780618155453
Publisher: Houghton Mifflin Harcourt
Publication Date: July 7th, 2009
Pages: 384