Andrea Lee's Bookshelf
By Rudyard Kipling
Much maligned in these politically correct decades as the father of all colonialist Dead White Males, Kipling is, to this African-American woman at least, simply a cultural product of his age, and he remains one of the great storytellers of all time. Kim, his masterpiece, set in the India of the Raj, is the tale of ragtag English-Irish orphan Kim O'Hara, who scrapes together a living in the streets and bazaars of Lahore. When he impulsively becomes the traveling companion of a Tibetan lama on a pilgrimage, the boy steps into a mad series of adventures throughout India. The breakneck plot eventually allows Kim to claim his strange heritage—that of a white Briton whose heart lies in the subcontinent. The book—which for its epoch is quite respectful of Indian culture—is simultaneously a passionately observed travelogue, a Buddhist parable, a coming-of-age story, and a thumping good spy-adventure yarn. What more could anyone want?