by Esther Mary Lyons
In her search for her identity, the author, Esther Mary Lyons, who was left deserted in India by her father, Michael Delisle Lyons, SJ of Detroit, Michigan, discovered that her father was the grandson of Senator Delisle of Delray, Michigan, and a direct descendant of Francois Bienvenu "dit" Delisle, one of the first Frenchman who developed Detroit around 1700.
Francois Bienvenu had to put up with many struggles with the Jesuits in the beginnings of Detroit. One of the descendants of Francois Bienvenu was the DuPlessis, the Premier of Quebec, Canada; another was the Lord of the Region of Champagne, Francois Bienvenu. He came from one of the wealthiest families of France. His wife was Madame Elanora De Grandmaison. Fr Michael Delisle Lyons' father was Patrick Lyons, whose ancestors immigrated from Ireland, during the potato famine and settled in Ohio, USA.
This book would interest anyone who has experienced a family break-up or been victimized by class discrimination. It is a study of determination, coming of age, and the search for one's origins. The chapter on her successful search for her Jesuit priest father in the USA in 1965 makes fascinating reading. Esther Lyons had no photographs, only the memory of his voice when he left her, at the age of three, in India.
The author remains a Christian and she describes this autobiography as a healing process for her. The story is about culture, class discrimination, experience, history, search, identity, loss, achievements, anger and healing.
This autobiography is a powerful work written by a courageous author, but it requires the reader to cope with a mass of minutiae and the authors encyclopedic memory recalling events and conversation set pieces in microscopic detail. Father Michael Lyons was sent back to the US when Esther was four years old, never to return to India. The author did not know who her father was until she discovered files establishing the truth. She was 16. Until then she had been aware of being unwanted, something of a scandal, living in near poverty. The church authorities were kind but kept her at a distance and the Anglo-Indian attitude of maintaining respectability at all costs gives a profound glimpse into this sub culture.
The search for her father is an account of great determination against almost unbelievable odds. Her experience as a single teacher at Carnarvon High School in NW Australia may be amusing for the Australian reader and underlines the casual promiscuity that we take for granted in western culture. Despite the minutiae mentioned earlier the reader will be encouraged by the triumph of the human spirit.
Every now and then a book lands in your lap which you simply cannot put down. UNWANTED! is such a book. The author tells her fascinating story in a simple and readable manner. Set in Northern India from the 1940's to the 1980's, it is the wrenching tale of a girl born of a union between an American Jesuit priest and an Indian Catholic nun. This book beckons on several levels. On one level the book is a personal odyssey of discovery and eventual healing. On another level it is the story of a single mother's heroic struggle to give her children a better life in the face of poverty and prejudice. The book offers valuable insights into what it was like growing up in Indian-Christian and Anglo-Indian communities in North India. The author lives in Sydney NSW, Australia, where she teaches children with learning difficulties and behavioural problems. UNWANTED! is highly recommended.
Old La Martiniere Association of Australia
UNWANTED! is a heart-breaking search of a child at home and abroad for a father who went away when she was three-and-half years old, the tribulations of alienation from, and rejection by one's own society, the despair of youth finding little reason to count blessings through adulthood. The author harbours no animosity towards the Catholic Church, even if she does question its hierarchical attitude. The language is simple and straightforward, the style is realistic and corresponds to a true account, the tone is very personal and touching. The author uncovers her troubled life in a totally unaffected way, confronting us, nevertheless, with a very poignant picture.
The Statesman of India
29th March 1996
This autobiography is set initially in Northern India, where the author was born in the 1940's. It describes her experiences in India and then the USA - where her Father lived, and concludes in Australia in the 1980's. The book is interesting mainly for the insight it provides into the Anglo-Indian and Indian cultures and how they impacted on each other. A second and less important reason for reading the book is that the author was the illegitimate daughter of an American Jesuit priest and an Indian Catholic nun. Whilst the book was probably published because of the illegitimacy issue and the possibility that this might increase sales, I believe the book has much more to offer the reader.
For the reader interested in the interplay of different cultures the author provides a quite detailed description of events in her life and how they impacted on her. The reader is given an impression, by the characters in the book, of a style of English spoken during the 1940's and 1950's in India by the Anglo-Indians. Further, many of their behaviours and actions are explained in terms of the socio-cultural milieu that operated at the time. The Anglo-Indians had their own subculture and much of this subculture with its own values, lifestyle and way of talking are captured here. The author describes a number of interesting and amusing experiences and it helps to understand them if one has lived in the subcontinent. One such incident was when she was accused of being a Pakistani spy by a railway guard because she was carrying a suspicious package. It turned out that the package was a transistor radio that she had bought for her mother. Another issue that she raises is that of the double standard that often characterises people. While condemning somebody else for not living by particular standards we tend to be much more forgiving of ourselves when we transgress those standards.
While I have reservations about the emphasis placed on the author's beginnings as the love child of an American Jesuit priest and an Indian Catholic nun, I believe many people will find the book interesting for other reasons. It describes a place and a time that lives on only in the memories of many people. The India of today is a vastly different place to that in the 1940's and 1950's and the Anglo-Indians and Indians of today are a very different people.
This is a remarkable book. Its author tells the dramatic story of her tireless search for her father after his departure from India and, in the course of it, her indomitable struggle for an identity, against innumerable and seemingly insuperable obstacles posed by the conflicting background . . .
Dr WA Suchting
Dept of Philosophy
University of Sydney
What an extraordinary story! Thank you for being force enough to write such a powerful, inspiring story. Written by a lady of great gifts - courage, truth, integrity, intelligence, forgiveness . . .
Br Charles Howard