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Biography & Autobiography Personal Memoirs

Almost Brown

A Mixed-Race Family Memoir

by (author) Charlotte Gill

Penguin Group Canada
Initial publish date
Jun 2023
Personal Memoirs, Women, Asian & Asian American
  • Hardback

    Publish Date
    Jun 2023
    List Price

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"A Canadian masterpiece."—The Toronto Star
An award-winning writer retraces her unconventional, biracial, globe-trotting family’s journey as she reckons with ethnicity and belonging, diversity and race, and the complexities of life within a multicultural household.

Charlotte Gill’s father is Indian. Her mother is English. They meet in 1960s London when the world is not quite ready for interracial love. Their union results in a total meltdown of familial relations, a lot of immigration paperwork, and three children, all in varying shades of tan. Together they set off on a journey to Canada and the United States in an elusive pursuit of life, liberty, and happiness—a dream that eventually tears them apart.

Almost Brown is an exploration of diasporic intermingling involving two deeply eccentric parents from worlds apart and their half-brown children as they experience the paradoxes and conundrums of life as it’s lived between race checkboxes. Their intercultural experiment features turbans and tube socks, chana masala and Cherry Coke, feminist uprisings, racial alliances and divides, a divorce, multiple grudges, and plenty of bad fashion. The family implodes, but after twenty years of silence, father and daughter reclaim a space for forgiveness and love.

Almost Brown is a funny, turbulent, and ultimately heartwarming book about the brilliant messiness of a mixed-race family and a search for answers to the question, What are you? Tender and incisive, it is both a deeply personal memoir and an excavation into ethnicity, ancestry, and race—a historical concept that still informs our beliefs about identity today.

About the author


Charlotte Gill is the author of the story collection Ladykiller, a finalist for the Governor General's Literary Award and winner of the Danuta Gleed Award and the B.C. Book Prize for fiction. Her work has appeared in many Canadian magazines, Best Canadian Stories, and The Journey Prize Stories, and has been broadcast on CBC Radio. Her narrative non-fiction has been nominated for Western and National Magazine Awards. She lives in Powell River, British Columbia.


Charlotte Gill's profile page

Editorial Reviews

"A Canadian masterpiece."—The Toronto Star
“Almost Brown is that rarest of things: a memoir that is both deeply intimate and intellectually ambitious. It examines race and the issue of belonging fearlessly, and at the same time is a tender, touching, often very funny tale of growing up and finding your way. Gill is a narrator you come to love.”
Susan Orlean, author of The Library Book

“Charlotte Gill fearlessly examines the complexities and subtleties of growing up mixed race, offering an exploration of identity and belonging that is beyond skin tone and nationality, and a sharply observed commentary on one's own privilege and bias. This wonderfully written memoir is also a loving tribute to Gill’s father, a character she evokes with tenderness and nuance. Intimate, moving, and whip-smart, Almost Brown dazzles with humour and heart.”
—Ayelet Tsabari, author of The Art of Leaving

“Beautifully written . . . this book hit me in all sorts of funny-tender spots. . . . Through immersive investigation and sharp social commentary, Gill overturns humanist platitudes and dicey purisms while recognizing the ongoing power of colonial hierarchies and racial arrangements. A truly moving and insightful book.”
Kyo Maclear, author of Birds Art Life
“What happens when love brings together . . . [an] Indo-Kenyan Sikh and the white daughter of an English bank manager? We get . . . their almost-brown daughter, Charlotte Gill, who spends her life in far-flung places, wondering, “Where do I fit?” . . . . Exquisitely written, deeply researched, and tenderly observed, this is memoir at its finest.”
Plum Johnson, author of They Left Us Everything

“Brilliantly observed and astute with sharp and tender character descriptions, Almost Brown is a gorgeous telling of a complicated family history and an essential exploration on race and belonging. Gill writes with her multifold gifts of lyricism, sly humor, and an expansive understanding of what it means to have your entire identity marred by generations of dysfunction, racism, diaspora, and childhood instability. Here is a memoir teeming with abundant heart, truth, and grace, as narrated to us by an expert writer with dazzling vision.”
Lindsay Wong, author of The Woo-Woo and Tell Me Pleasant Things about Immortality

“Almost Brown charges into the thicket of assumptions, arguments, and historical baggage around multiracial inheritance and cuts an elegant, lucid path. Charlotte Gill resists easy conclusions at every turn, blending self-reflection with impressive research to offer a complex portrait of what it means to inhabit the in-between. At the center of it all is the vivid character of Gill’s father, a flamboyant, larger-than-life presence that Gill renders with palpable love, humor, and affectionate exasperation.”
—Tajja Isen, author of Some of My Best Friends

“What a graceful, textured world Gill gives us, living and growing between cultures, colors, and her own parents’ marriage and divorce. The beautiful bow she binds this gift with comes not only from the tension of a society that asks us to pick sides—one favored greatly over another—but from our own mixed identities and the realization that we must love ourselves whole.”
—Carmen Rita Wong, author of Why Didn’t You Tell Me?

“With humor and insight, Gill traces the quicksand of assimilation, her immigrant parents’ dogged pursuit of the American Dream, and the job uniquely left to first-generation children to rediscover the homeland they’ve never known. . . . A joyful read of memory and forgiveness.”
—Hafizah Augustus Geter, author of The Black Period

“Moving. . . . In lyrical, near-poetic prose, Gill uses [the relationship between her and her father] as a springboard to touch on themes of belonging and identity-making relevant to anyone who has ever struggled to place themselves within their own lineage. . . . Readers should expect to have their heartstrings tugged.”
Publishers Weekly

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