The Girl from Foreign weaves stories of author Sadia Shepard’s cross-cultural childhood with tales from her two-year journey to India to uncover the disparate influences which have shaped her family.

The child of a white Protestant father from Colorado and a Muslim mother from Pakistan, Sadia grew up outside of Boston in a household full of stories and storytellers where cultures intertwined. One day, when Sadia was thirteen, she made the discovery that Nana, her beloved maternal grandmother, was not a Muslim like the rest of her Pakistani family. Instead, she had begun her life as Rachel Jacobs, a member of a tiny Jewish community in India that believes it is descended from one of the lost tribes of Israel, shipwrecked in India over two thousand years ago.

Before Nana died, Sadia promised her that she would go to India to learn about the life and the faith that she had left behind. Armed with a suitcase of camera equipment, Sadia arrives in Bombay, where she finds herself struggling to document the Bene Israel’s unique traditions and make sense of her own complicated cultural legacy.

Weaving together the story of her grandparents’ secret marriage—and the haunting legacy of Partition—with an evocative account of a little-known Jewish community in transition, Shepard's journey unearths long-buried family secrets and forces her to examine what it means both to lose and to seek a homeland.


Footpaths in the
Painted City (UK)

The Girl From Foreign

Het Meisje van Ver (The Netherlands)

"A beautifully written memoir about finding home, from an author who is multiply exiled. Told from the heart, The Girl From Foreign performs the unique feat of making the foreign feel familiar."

-Suketu Mehta, author of Maximum City: Bombay Lost and Found

"A deeply moving journey across boundaries that most others find uncrossable, and into depths of human meaning that are rarely plumbed. An important and timely book."

-James Carroll, author of Constantine's Sword:The Church and the Jews

"The Girl From Foreign unfolds like a series of miniatures or dreams - a synagogue in the heart of Bombay so bereft of Jews that its caretaker is a Muslim, a sixteen-year-old Pakistani girl welcomed to Kansas by a marching band playing 'For She's a Jolly Good Fellow', secrets from another generation which have migrated froma Jewish to a Muslim household, locked and forgotten until a key arrives from America to free them. Intricately plotted, deeply moving, and beautifully written, the story of Sadia Shepard's journey into her grandmother's past proves that faith and memory and love will always be inextricable."

-Deborah Baker, author of The Blue Hand

"Part travelogue, part elegy to a beloved grandmother, and part love affair, The Girl From Foreign is a remarkable, moving and refreshingly honest account of a young woman's search for roots, for belief and a place to belong."

-Alice Greenway, author of White Ghost Girls

"Sadia Shepard writes with compassion and humility about her journey to discover the disparate forces - cultural, ethnic, and religious - the make up her identity. On the way, we learn about the diversity and plurality of a rapidly transforming Indian Subcontinent, we discover the love story that brought Sadia's grandparents together, and finally, we are reminded through the intimate and touching portrait of her family, of all the mysteries that shape who we are."

-Tahmima Anam, author of The Golden Age