This book has been extremely popular since it came out. Hari Kunzru declares on the front cover that it is "a book that will make a lot of young Britons feel more powerful and less alone." I know people for whom this was the case and I can see why; it wasn't for me. Rather than writing a review to tell you why it wasn't, I'm going to share some passages that struck me and some questions that came to mind (I don't necessarily have the answers). As you read them, you can think about my questions or share your own.
"I chose these writers for simple reasons: I know them, I rate them, I want to read more from them. I'm happy to admit that nepotism and networks played a part in my selection. And I'm happy to create a brand new old boys' network that circumvents the institutionalised ones we have to deal with on a daily basis." (Editor's Note, Nikesh Shukla)
Why do all the chapters seem to be different yet the same?
"I'm reeling harder than the time Dad was doing Ramadan so it meant we had to wait until the evening for our Christmas dinner... I know, our household was nothing if not multicultural." (The Wife of a Terrorist, Miss L)
When did religion become "culture"?
"I decided to leave the United Kingdom. [...] It wasn't lost on me that the very advice that racists in the UK had long spat at foreigners - 'if you don't like it, then go ahead and leave' - was that which I took. I suppose, in that sense, they won." (The Ungrateful Country, Musa Okwonga)
Why have you given hostile people a voice in your life decisions?
"Whenever we beg for nuances, for our differences to be articulated, for more diversity and accuracy in how our communities are described, in the characters written for 'black' actors on stage, on television, or in film, our voices are either silenced or ignored." (Cutting Through, Inua Ellams)
When did you decide to become a beggar?
"We are all citizens of the world. Whatever shade you are, bring your light, bring your colour, bring your music and your books, your stories and your histories, and climb aboard. United as a people we are a million majestic colours, together we are a glorious stained-glass window. We are building a cathedral of otherness, brick by brick and book by book. Raise your glass of rum, let's toast to the minorities who are the majority." (Shade, Salena Godden)
Who is "we"? (Who is not "we"?)
"What's it like to live in a country that doesn't trust you and doesn't want you unless you win an Olympic gold medal or a national baking competition?" (Back cover blurb)
What if we don't forge our identity in contrast to (and dependence on) hostile, imperfect entities?
What if we don't take our value from a state (or person or demographic group)?
What if we root our value and identity in a Higher, Perfect source?
Reader. Occasional writer. Muslim.