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Reading to Remember Britain's Black Armed Forces

This week is Armed Forces Week, ending in Armed Forces Day on 27th June. But Google it and the images that come up are overwhelmingly of white service personnel.
The past few weeks has seen the Black Lives Matter movement gain momentum, with demonstrations and protests against the whitewashing of Britain’s colonial past, the silencing of Black voices, continued institutional racism, and in the literary world, a much-needed conversation about the erasure of black, Asian and ethnic minority voices in history and literature.Countering this movement are assertions that the removal of statues commemorating certain figures is an attempt to “rewrite” our history. But we can’t claim to be concerned over rewriting history so long as we have a selective memory regarding that history.
 Image Courtesy: IWMI started researching for this blog post in an attempt to address that selective memory in the spirit of anti-racism, and to shine a light on forgotten voices and experiences. What I was looking f…
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8 books to read for World Refugee Day

Adults1.Devotion, Louisa Young
Set in Italy and Britain in the 1930s, as Tom, Kitty, Nadine and Riley spend the summers with their friends in Rome. It’s an idyllic place and time, and Tom finds himself falling in love with Nenna. Then fascism rears its ugly head, and worryingly, Nenna’s father Aldo seems to be in agreement with Mussolini. Nadine’s Jewish background means the family must cut their summer short and return to England. But Tom is determined not to leave without Nenna. The way Young traced the progression from bog-standard populism to out-and-out fascist antisemitism is cleverly done and frankly terrifying. Read with heart in mouth.2.Last Train to Istanbul, Ayse Kulin
The little-known story of how during the Holocaust, the Turkish government helped its Jewish citizens flee from Europe and welcomed them back to Turkey, by supplying them with fake Muslim or Christian identities and chartering a train to carry them home. Told from the point of view of Turkish Muslim Selva, who …

Self-Discovery & Strength in Sisterhood

Balli Kaur Jaswal’s novel follows three sisters on a road trip across India to complete their late mother’s last rites. In order to do this, the three of them have had to press pause on their own personal issues and focus on mending their fraught relationships with each other.Jaswal’s writing is full of humour and warmth, delivering a narrative that’s both funny and poignant. The three sisters’ characters are distinctly drawn, from the bossy-but-capable Rajni, to the reserved Shireen to hot-mess Jezmeen. The narrative is split between the viewpoints of the sisters, which is useful for gaining an insight into their individual personal problems and for contrasting this against how each sister is seen by the others. What Jaswal does well in this book is to show how it’s possible for adult siblings’ relationships to fragment under the pressure of other relationships – marriages, children, careers all take their toll. But at the same time, there is always a sense that our siblings are the …

Misogyny, corruption and family ties: You Beneath Your Skin, Damyanti Biswas

In her tautly-written debut, author Damyanti Biswas explores the misogyny, corruption and social inequalities that exist in Delhi’s seamy underbelly. Dark and atmospheric, the book sits within the Indian noir genre that has inspired Hindi movies such as Mardaani and Talaash. It follows psychotherapist Dr Anjali Morgan as she juggles her work at a women’s project in inner-city Delhi, with her complicated personal life: her fraught relationship with her teenage son Nikhil, who has autism; her friendship with Maya who runs a small detective agency, and her on-off affair with Maya’s brother, Special Crime Commissioner Jatin Bhatt. When the three of them begin to work on a case solving a spate of grotesque murders in which slum women are raped and killed, their faces disfigured with acid, it exposes old scars and creates new ones in the personal lives of the main characters.


With her brooding writing style and the narrative split between multiple viewpoints, Biswas skilfully lays bare the h…

A Love Letter to Food, Faith and Family: To Lahore With Love, Hina Belitz

Synopsis:
Newly-wed Irish Pakistani Addy is a gifted cook and aspiring chef. She hopes to open her own restaurant one day or work for a Michelin-starred restaurant, and is married to the man of her dreams, Gabe. When her marriage comes under strain, Addy, her devoted Nana and her best friend Jen take a trip to Lahore to reconnect with Addy’s Pakistani family. There, she learns about how to accept the bad with the good in life, and to let go of what she can’t change, as well as discovering some truths about her own extended family.

My review:
This is a readable, simply-written novella that on the surface follows all the familiar conventions of chick-lit: hopeful young woman, dastardly handsome man, breakdown of relationship and the subsequent journey of self-discovery as the heroine searches for the strength to move on. However what stops it from being just another chick-lit novel for me was its focus on two things: the alchemy of food to transform our emotions, and the influence of fai…

The Good, The Bleak & The Unread: What I read in April & What's on my List in May

I don't know about you, readers, but after an initial surge, I for one have found it pretty hard to concentrate on reading - or writing - lately. Other book-bloggers who have got through 12 books or more in a month - how?! I have however rounded up what I have managed to get through over the past few weeks and  what I'm looking forward to reading in May.

April Wrap-up:
Title: The Last Man 
Author: Mary Shelley
Lots of people have been talking about this recently. Set 60 years from now, this book follows one man's fortunes and friendships while mankind is in the process of being wiped out by a pandemic. The faint glimmer of hope Shelley eventually holds out doesn't stop this from being bleak, bleak, bleak. Give it a miss if you're feeling fragile.

Title: Hashim & Family
Author: Shahnaz Ahsan
A thoughtful look at migration, belonging and racism through the experiences of one family's experiences in Manchester and Bangladesh. This is John Murray's lead fiction …

Lockdown reading to take you to another world

The Ten Thousand Doors of January Author: Alix E. Harrow
January Scaller discovers she has a unique gift – that of being able to make things happen just by writing about them. While we all shut our doors during this pandemic, January is busy opening them. Doors to other realms and worlds, which call to her natural sense of adventure and send her on a voyage of discovery about her own roots. The trouble is, not everybody is happy about letting January into other worlds, or other worlds into ours. 




This was an enjoyable, book-lovers’ fantasy full of adventure, romance, humour and pathos. The fact that it had a female protagonist of colour was a major draw for me although this is secondary to the actual story.
The first thing that hooked me, apart from the gorgeous cover, was the language and writing style. Harrow’s use of metaphor and imagery is vivid, evoking scenes and emotions in bold strokes. Her sense of voice is sharp so that she manages to render a variety of distinct ones, whether…