Sari Swinging: An American Mother Opts All the Way Out

by Katie Quirk

Novel / Memoir

India with a baby? Friends in California thought we were crazy, toting our newborn around the globe, but to me and my husband, Tim, it made perfect sense. I was a budding novelist. He was a graduate student. With our limited income, we had two childcare choices in the affluent Bay Area: the depressing daycare up the road from the liquor shop; or me trading in my writing ambitions for long days of no-pay, full-time motherhood in our cramped apartment. Career or kid. There was no middle ground. Enter India. We were seasoned travelers and knew from experience we could live on the subcontinent for a fraction of what it cost to survive in California. In fact, in India we could even afford to pay a generous nanny salary. So we packed our bags and hopes to move to the land not of pediatric dysentery and child beggars (what others saw), but of succulent curries, resplendent Hindu weddings, and maternal balance, where I could afford to be present to both my child and my career. In essence, we sought to overcome the great American maternal challenge: having it all with a child. Sari Swinging: An American Mother Opts All the Way Out spans two years and is at turns a hilarious, lyrical, and often humbling exploration of contemporary motherhood. It is also a story of sisterhood and my friendship with Rani, our South Indian nanny-cum-best friend, an intelligent woman in her thirties whose hopes for an education, a fulfilling job, or even a family of her own, were hijacked by the expectation that she care for her aging mother and her lay-about adult brother. Though on the surface our lives appeared quite different, we bonded over common challenges we faced as women and developed a friendship that would last a lifetime.

About the Author

Katie Quirk’s middle-grade novel set in Tanzania, A Girl Called Problem, received a Kirkus star, a glowing review from School Library Journal’s Elizabeth Bird, and coverage in the New York Times. Katie’s essays have appeared in publications including Yes!, Orion, The San Francisco Chronicle, and Commonweal. Her current project, Sari Swinging: One American Mother Opts All the Way Out, is a memoir about the challenges of finding work-family balance in America and her unconventional solution: moving to India with her newborn son. More information about Katie and her work can be found at