The Coconut Generation

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My favorite cousin, Vineet Kantayya, just sent me a blurb for a new book about “our” demographic, by Sam George:

Understanding the Coconut Generation: Ministry to the Americanized Asian Indians is a multidisciplinary study of the Indian American experience, including a brief historical review, demographical data, psycho-social analysis, anthropological and theological reflections, results of a web-based survey and many practical lessons for Christian ministry.

Sam also has a Coconut Generation blog, and there’s now a South Asian Connection featuring evangelist TV Thomas. [Read more] about how I first started grappling with my “coconut” identity.

Back in the early 1990s, while working with the now-dormant North American Council of South Asian Christians (NACSAC) — founded by TV Thomas — a bunch of us “young adults” founded a short-lived offshoot called the South Asian Youth Network (SAYN). One of the few things we did was discuss the tensions of being what are often called “third-culture kids.” This was compounded by the additional fragmentation of being a Christian minority in a religious “home” culture, while part a nominal Christian majority in a much more secular “host” country.

That was when I first heard the term “Coconut” to describe someone who felt/acted “white” on the inside, while being “brown” on the outside (by analogy with Oreo for blacks and Banana for Chinese). We used the term more humorously than pejoratively, but it was certainly apt. In fact, working with SAYN was virtually the only time I was really conscious of my Indian heritage (before getting married, of course!).

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