When Vijay Chokalingam approached me about reworking his book proposal his pitch grabbed me. Of Indian heritage (Neru, not Geronimo), seventeen years ago Vijay had screwed around in college and his grades sucked. Problem was he really wanted what every kid of Indian ancestry wants: to be a doctor. So, being of dark skin, Vijay began applying to medical schools as a black man, using affirmative action to game the system. He got in. But it came at a cost. His journey was often funny and ironic but he also came to understand the depth of racial animus in this country. It was a stunning eye opener.
Vijay wanted to take a slightly sardonic, self-deprecating approach (he had read and liked Andy Kaufman Revealed! and amazingly, the Dennis Rodman book!) so I "Kaufmanized" his proposal. I haven't written something this funny in a long time so this project was a real joy. Writing the book was a real hoot because Vijay is a super smart guy, has a killer sense of humor, and is a terrific collaborator.
I'm very proud of this book and the revelations Vijay came away with from his journey. With all of the racism bubbling to the surface in this election it's comforting to know that most people would end this as fast as Vijay and I would.
Vijay had been a proponent of ending affirmative action, but has changed his opinion. He had felt burned by affirmative action as an Asian American, despite it benefiting him in his quest to find a medical school. But now he realizes that affirmative action helps too many deserving people. He's proposing that we keep affirmative action, but modify it so that it creates an even more "level" "level playing field" for all, not just some. How to do this? He's got some ideas but I believe he will be looking for help from state legislators in crafting new, fairer addendums to the existing law. If you're a politician (or anyone with a creative opinion) he would love to hear from you. Fix affirmative action!
The book is available on September 13, in trade paper back, electronic forms, and audiobook. By the way, Spencer Cannon, our voice talent on the audiobook, did a terrific job.