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British Asian fiction

British Asian fiction: Twenty-first-century voices

Sara Upstone
Copyright Date: 2010
Pages: 240
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  • Book Info
    British Asian fiction
    Book Description:

    This is the first text to focus solely on the writing of British writers of South Asian descent born or raised in Britain. Exploring the unique contribution of these writers, it positions their work within debates surrounding black British, diasporic, migrant, and postcolonial literature in order to foreground both the continuities and tensions embedded in their relationship to such terms, engaging in particular with the ways in which this ‘new’ generation has been denied the right to a distinctive theoretical framework through absorption into pre-existing frames of reference. Focusing on the diversity of contemporary British Asian experience, the book engages with themes including gender, national and religious identity, the reality of post-9/11 Britain, the post-ethnic self, urban belonging, generational difference and youth identities, as well as indicating how these writers manipulate genre and the novel form in support of their thematic concerns.

    eISBN: 978-1-84779-353-9
    Subjects: Anthropology

Table of Contents

  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-iv)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. v-v)
  3. Acknowledgements
    (pp. vi-vi)
  4. Introduction
    (pp. 1-12)

    Growing up in the West London borough of Hounslow in the 1980s and 1990s, British Asian culture was something taken for granted. At my Church of England secondary school, 50% of the students came from South Asian backgrounds. Morning prayers were juxtaposed by bhangra dancing in the classrooms at lunchtime; Diwali, Eid and Ramadan were familiar yearly observances; and a fusion of English, Urdu and Punjabi echoed in the hallways. In history, we studied the Mughal Empire alongside the history of its British counterpart. Yet while the curriculum was filled with Asian voices, the study of literature was not: we...

  5. 1 Salman Rushdie and V.S. Naipaul
    (pp. 13-36)

    Visit the University of London Library located at Senate House, Bloomsbury, and the problem of classifying authors by ethnicity becomes immediately apparent. A researcher wanting to consult work on Salman Rushdie finds this material – and indeed Rushdie’s fiction – in the English Literature section. Yet you are directed within this section not to the British authors, but rather to a separate section on World Literature including postcolonial authors such as Chinua Achebe, Wole Soyinka and Arundhati Roy. Look for the work of V.S. Naipaul, and related critical writings, and you encounter an even more perplexing scenario. These works are not located...

  6. 2 Hanif Kureishi
    (pp. 37-61)

    In 1967, my grandparents moved to a council flat in West Kensington. Their excitement at this, I have been told since, was so strong it was palpable. Having waited years to escape poor living conditions and exploitation by Hammersmith’s private landlords, the possibility of secure tenancy and guaranteed standards was as close as this working-class generation would get to the home ownership their children and grandchildren later enjoyed.

    Forty-one years later, my grandmother still lives in that same council flat. Now a widow, she finds the estate is not what it was, though it is still better than many. There...

  7. 3 Ravinder Randhawa
    (pp. 62-81)

    At the same time Hanif Kureishi was making his name as a screenwriter, and before he had published any fiction, a female author born in India in 1952 but raised in Warwickshire from the age of seven, and living her adult life in London, was already publishing fiction. While Kureishi quickly became notorious, Ravinder Randhawa operated under the radar of mainstream literary criticism. Well-known, however, within the Asian writing community, and to feminists, Randhawa was essential to the burgeoning British Asian literature. As a founder of the Asian Women Writers’ Workshop (AWWW), which she established with Rukhsana Ahmad, Rahila Gupta...

  8. 4 Atima Srivastava
    (pp. 82-100)

    Open Atima Srivastava’sLooking for Maya(1999) and you are not transported into a world of racism, prejudice, or identity crises. Instead, you enter a fairytale world of fated romances, star-crossed lovers and passionate embraces. With such prose Srivastava is the first prominent example of a school of British Asian writing which also includes Preethi Nair, Nisha Minhas and B. K. Mahal: a British Asian romance genre intervention. Born in Mumbai in 1961, and coming to Britain at the age of eight, Srivastava’s two novels,Maya, and the earlierTransmission(1992), feature young women protagonists, working in creative industries, with...

  9. 5 Nadeem Aslam
    (pp. 101-119)

    Nadeem Aslam, more than any other author discussed in this book, represents the complexities of British Asian authorship. In his three novels,Season of the Rainbirds(1993),Maps for Lost Lovers(2004), andThe Wasted Vigil(2008), Aslam fuses conventional postcolonial themes and literary techniques with a distinctly British sensibility. Born in Gujranwala, Pakistan, in 1966, Aslam came with his parents to Britain at the age of fourteen, where the family settled in Huddersfield, West Yorkshire. Since leaving, Aslam has never returned to Pakistan. He has described himself as ‘a Pakistani man living in Britain’.² Yet, elsewhere, he is described...

  10. 6 Meera Syal
    (pp. 120-141)

    Near the beginning of Meera Syal’s second novel,Life Isn’t All Ha Ha Hee Hee(1999), one of the three central protagonists, Tania, is making a film about the British Asian experience. Her producer Jonathan critiques her with the following:

    Well, it’s victim mentality TV, isn’t it? Let’s look at the strange brown people and admire their spunk or pity their struggles. What about the happy stories? What about the Asians who like who they are, who just get on and do it and … live? Yeah?²

    In the wake of the rise of ‘Asian cool’, the desire to meet...

  11. 7 Hari Kunzru
    (pp. 142-166)

    In 2004, the BBC screened a documentary entitledThe Power of Nightmares: the Rise of the Politics of Fear. Written and produced by Adam Curtis, the documentary controversially argues that Islamist terrorist groups such as al-Qaeda are self-realising myths, encouraged by the West (particularly US neoconservatives) in order to construct identifiable enemies resonant with the popular imagination. At the centre of Curtis’s argument is the assertion that terrorists cannot be conceived as individuals; they must be imagined as part of a global organisation, ‘A powerful and sinister network, with sleeper cells in countries across the world’.² Curtis does not deny...

  12. 8 Monica Ali
    (pp. 167-189)

    In the summer of 2001, young British Asians took to the streets of Oldham and Burnley in the North of England to protest against perceived racial inequality in their neighbourhoods. In the popular British press, these events were reported as illustrative of the disconnection of young British Asians from wider British society, driven by outside ‘foreign’ influences.² For Ash Amin, however, the actions of these young men were characterised as:

    a counter-public making a citizenship claim that cannot be reduced to complaints of ethnic and religious mooring or passing youth masculinity. The anger expressed a demand to own and mould...

  13. 9 Suhayl Saadi
    (pp. 190-208)

    On Saturday 30 June 2007, a car filled with explosives was driven into the glass frontage of Glasgow International Airport. While the bomb attack was a ‘failure’, resulting in only five members of the public receiving minor injuries, this ‘terrorist attack’ shifted the geographical focus of concerns with Asian identity. The two occupants of the car, Bilal Abdulla and Kafeel Ahmed, were accused of being connected to a small terrorist cell of Islamic extremists, and of involvement in another failed bombing campaign in London a day earlier. That the two were identified as producing their explosives out of a house...

  14. Conclusion
    (pp. 209-218)

    Is a conclusion the same as an ending? In some ways, this book marks just a beginning. The authors it focuses on are all still writing, seven of them are under the age of fifty. Their presence has realised Salman Rushdie’s ‘newness’: a reinvigoration of British fiction from a perspective that can be compared to neither the postcolonial writing of their parents’ generation nor an earlier British literature written from a predominantly white, predominantly Christian, perspective. Such ‘newness’, as we have seen, takes many divergent forms. It cannot be reduced to a singular definition of the ‘British Asian text’. Rather...

  15. Bibliography
    (pp. 219-240)
  16. Index
    (pp. 241-250)