05 Jun 2009 – Hay on Wye Booksellers

An excellent and important book.  Yasmin starts off telling a (to me) common story of a family settling in England and trying to adapt to a new life.  Her Dad, Mr Hai, is determined to make his children English, so instigating Project Children (Project Wife involved abandoning Mrs Hai on Oxford Street to find her way home… but secretly following her to make sure she was OK) and stopping them speaking Urdu seems natural to him.  But what would he think as Yasmin’s community becomes more and more "Islamicised", turns in on itself and moves from the jolly day-time raves and black/asian power to an increasinly conservative, restrictive and religious society.  Is it the fault of multiculturalism, of British and American foreign policy, or of a need to belong somewhere… anywhere?

Yasmin goes into journalism and finds she can walk an increasinly unstable tight rope between the media and her Muslim community. She examines her colleagues’, her old school friends’ and her own attitudes and is unsparing of all of them.  An important discussion of her feelings at 9/11 and 07 July make for disturbing and reassuring reading.  Reassuring because, while there are people like her, willing to examine attitudes instead of kicking against them or blindly following them, there is still hope for a cohesive multi-ethnic community in Britain.

Strong stuff, but told with a deftly light and personal touch.  I will be looking for more work by Yasmin Hai, and looking up her journalism.