Robin Yassin-Kassab

Posts Tagged ‘Sunjeev Sahota

Ours Are The Streets

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This review was written for the Guardian.

Here’s another suicide bomber novel. We’ve had Amis and Updike’s uninformed attempts, plus variations on the theme from Sebastian Faulks. This time, though not of Muslim background, our author is a British-Asian and he does have some important insights on the anguished inbetweenness suffered by so many second-generation immigrants, which in some rare cases may constitute part of the psychological background to political radicalisation.

As a study of migrants, the frustrated ambition of the first generation and the generalised alienation of the second (from the ‘home country’ as much as from ‘home’) – this could as well be titled ‘Ours Are Not The Streets’ – the novel is very successful.

People of a variety of backgrounds will recognise the complex allegiances of Imtiaz, the chief protagonist, who “felt fine rooting for Liverpool, in a quiet way, but not England” and who finds himself “defending Muslims against whites and whites against Muslims.” Everybody will appreciate Suhota’s deft treatment of the generation gap. Imtiaz’s repeated ‘why can’t you be normal?’ is a common adolescent interrogation, but one which becomes more acute in an immigrant household. Suhota is very good at dramatising children’s rankling shame at their migrant parents’ submission to humiliation. Imtiaz’s father’s silence as a passenger pisses in the back of his cab, or when a member of a hen party demands he grope her breasts, and Imtiaz’s squirming response to the silence, are excrutiatingly well written.

Imtiaz is really very British. He stands up to his parents and marries Becka, his pregnant white girlfriend, who happily converts to Islam and moves into the family home. They have a daughter, Noor. Imtiaz, not assimilated but reasonably comfortably integrated, seems to have it all.

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Written by Robin Yassin-Kassab

January 8, 2011 at 2:01 pm

Posted in book review

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