Going Beyond Ethnic Loneliness: A Conversation with Prasanta Verma

The Conversation | Prasanta Verma

Josh Olds: Your book is titled Beyond Ethnic Loneliness. But before we go beyond that, we have to understand what it is. And I think for a lot of people who look like me, that is quite literally a foreign experience. For people who are ethnic minorities in the United States, there’s probably not much of a need to define these terms, because it’s something you feel in your soul. But for the cultural majority—What is ethnic loneliness? What causes it? What does it look like?

Prasanta Verma: Put quite simply, I think you can say that ethnic loneliness occurs when we feel disconnected or culturally isolated, as a result of our cultural or racial ethnic identity. And so when we have that kind of feeling of being disconnected, it leads to sort of a, lots of different issues, for example, a fragment itself. So when we feel like we were having this tussle between who we are culturally, but it doesn’t quite match the culture at large. There’s this tussle of this identity that we experience and this we live with these fragments. And we just we have to decide well, which fragment of my identity am I going to present here in this situation? And which fragment will I present there? And so we can’t feel that we’re our fully full self. Because there’s this identity negotiation going on.

The Book | Beyond Ethnic Loneliness

“So what are you? Go back where you belong!”

Majority white American culture has historically marginalized people of color, who at times feel invisible and alienated and at other times are traumatized by oppression and public discrimination. This reality leads to a particular kind of aloneness: ethnic and racial loneliness.

An Indian American immigrant who grew up in white Southern culture, Prasanta Verma names and sheds light on the realities of ethnic loneliness. She unpacks the exhausting effects of cultural isolation, the dynamics of marginalization, and the weight of being other. In the midst of disconnection and erasure, she points to the longing to belong, the need to share our stories, and the hope of finding safe friendships and community. Our places of exile can become places where we find belonging―to ourselves, to others, and to God.

The Author | Prasanta Verma

Prasanta Verma (MBA, MPH) was born under an Asian sun, raised in the Appalachian foothills in the South, and now resides in the Upper Midwest. Her essays and poetry have been published in numerous places online and in print. She has worked as an author, editor, speech and debate coach, and public health professional, and wants to help us envision a world where we are all more socially connected and a little less lonely. Beyond Ethnic Loneliness is her first book.