Just labels? Multicultural, Exotic, Other
27 October, 2010
Anjali Joseph, the author of Saraswati Park has an interesting article in The Independant about being what many would label a multicultural/exotic writer. In an age where there is increasing migration of skills and nationalities, globalisation, cross border living, the idea of the exotic is becoming diluted and eroded. This is a topic that is of great interest to me because it directly impacts my life everyday. There is a term called Third Culture Kids that was originally used in the US for kids from a military background whose families have been posted globally, who are originally from one country, grow up in another and finally settle in a third.
But Anjali Joseph has a bone to pick with being so labelled. Read her article, it’s good. Maybe it’s a marketing thing for publishers and journalists as they like labels, makes it easier to identify their target group and sell. Hanif Kureishi is probably the first to write about growing up mixed in the UK, not as an Asian, but as a Londoner in Buddha of Suburbia. There’s a difference there. Gurinder Chadha brought this to the screen first with Bhaji on the Beach and then Bend it Like Beckham. And let’s not forget the bittersweet comedy of East is East directed by Damien O’Donnell. There’s a new wave of British Asians that is creating a new literature. And what I like is that it echoes what all my British Asian friends have been telling me as we were growing up together and all the Asian rudeboys and girls I met at uni. So I’m certainly looking forward to reading what Joseph and her peers will be writing about. Not about the exotic but about the ordinary. Maybe it will give our lives more sense.
Some other books I’m looking forward to reading: Nikesh Shukla’s Coconut Unlimited (you can read a Metro article here), Gautam Malkani’s Londonstani, Niven Govinden’s Graffiti My Soul. An obvious choice for the American desi experience is Jhumpa Lahiri. Although I try to read as much South Asian and diaspora literature as I can, there are still many titles of which I’m unaware. So, any other recommendations?
Also, the DSC South Asian Literature Prize shortlist has been announced. I haven’t read any of the titles, have you?
I grew up mixed: in Sri Lanka, Japan, Thailand and the UK. My views are mixed, my history’s mixed and I belong to no one country. But it’s only as I grow older that I’ve become more comfortable in my skin. I pick and choose what I like, and I like it that way. There’s a wonderful initiative happening in Japan as mixed marriages have increased and there are a lot of mixed folk out there. Check out Hafu. Hooray!