In a work that is both moving and insightful, Deepak Singh chronicles his downward mobility as an immigrant to a small town in Virginia. Armed with an MBA from India, Singh could only get a minimum wage job in an electronics store in a strip mall. Every day at work he confronted unfamiliar American mores—from strange idioms to deeply entrenched racism to open expressions of sexuality.
Story-by-story, Singh offers a portrait of America by an educated, if initially credulous, outsider. Through his unique lens, he learns about his colleagues and their struggles—Ron, a middle-aged African American man, simply trying to keep his job, house, and marriage intact despite health concerns; Jackie, a young African American woman trying to go to school after work; and Cindy, Deepak’s boss, whose matter-of-fact way of dealing with her employees helps Deepak to adapt to both his job and life in the U.S.
Candid and evocative, How May I Help You? is a powerful reminder that service and other low-wage workers are complex and inspiring in their dogged efforts to remain afloat. Their rich stories serve as a chance to humanize debates about work, race, and immigration. How May I Help You? is an incisive take on the United States, familiar and strange, from the perspective of someone “fresh off the plane.”
Deepak Singh is a writer, radio producer, and journalist. He is a frequent contributor to PRI’s The World and has written for The New York Times, NPR, The Boston Globe and The Atlantic.
"Deepak Singh shares his incredible stories of learning, feeling, beauty, work, friendship, and marriage. It is at once deeply personal and specific, while also resonating with fellow humans’ similar struggles across the globe."—Dr. Susan D. Blum, author of Lies That Bind: Chinese Truth, Other Truths
"I devoured Deepak Singh's memoir. It's funny, eye-opening, and deeply human in its regard for working-class Americans and for all people who struggle to make ends meet. If Barbara Ehrenreich had been born in India, Nickel and Dimed might've looked a lot like this." —Arun Venugopal, WNYC
"Deepak Singh reanimates the fears, joys, bafflements, and general vertigo of those first few months after immigrating to the United States. With humor and pathos in equal measure, Singh shows us how difficult it is to work at the most insecure levels of American society." —Siva Vaidhyanathan, University of Virginia