Friday, October 15, 2010

Our October Author: Peter Akinti (Forest Gate)

This month we are reading Forest Gate by Peter Akinti. Kicking off our supplemental links this mont, Akinti introduces his book in this video:

The book comes with a supplemental essay and interview.  If your edition doesn't have them, check here.  The Bookbag has an interview,
BB: For this ex-Londoner, Forest Gate draws some very painful parallels between war-torn Somalia and life on some of London 's streets. Yet Armeina defends London. Why does she?

PA: When I wrote Forest Gate one of my aims was to provide a snapshot of young black people in London, to try to paint a truer picture of their mixed identity and or culture. I wanted to show what life was like under the full effects of constant migration; how much globalization is affecting us in ways we are yet able to fully grasp. I didn't want to compare London and Somalia. I wanted to compare two lives that clash in London; to show how very different two young black people living in London might be, the causes and effects of that interaction.
Forest GateAnd  SoulCulture asks about the reality behind the fiction,
SoulCulture: The book contains a lot of difficult but compelling chapters vividly describing sexual abuse and violence. Was this a realistic representation of their stories or extreme content needed to make a certain point?
Peter Akinti: Some of it is definitely to make a point. There’s a point where two boys get stopped and searched by the police and someone asked me what I thought about stop-and-search. They thought it was me trying to say something about stop and search but it wasn’t, it was much more to do with an experience I had with my niece.
One of her friends got involved in something crazy and I took her to the police station and I took a statement and they were really rough with her, and when she came out I said ‘what did you think of that?’ and she said she never wanted to do anything like that again, it felt like abuse. And that struck me. That’s where it came from, that first one.
So a lot of the things that happened aren’t me trying to be clever; a lot of these things really happened. A friend of mine had a younger brother who jumped off a tower block in East London and that’s where that came from. I just wanted to show that’s how a lot of people feel once they’ve had that experience, especially the Metropolitan police – they’re really rough with young, black people.
In addition to those two interesting interviews, Akinti has a couple pieces in the Guardian you may want to check out:  Looking back on New Labour and Why London is no place for a young black man.

Friday, October 01, 2010

For December: The Protest Singer by Alec Wilkinson

The Protest Singer: An Intimate Portrait of Pete Seeger (Vintage)For December, we have chosen The Protest Singer: An Intimate Portrait of Pete Seeger by Alec Wilkinson:

A spirited and intimate look at American icon and activist Pete Seeger, and his life and his accomplishments. Pete Seeger transformed a classic American musical style into a form of peaceful protest against war, segregation, and nuclear weapons. Drawing on his extensive talks with Seeger, Alec Wilkinson delivers a first hand look at Seeger's unique blend of independence and commitment, charm, courage, energy, and belief in human equality and American democracy. We see Seeger, the child, instilled with a love of music by his parents; Seeger, the teenager, hearing real folk music for the first time; Seeger, the young adult, singing with Woody Guthrie. And finally, Seeger the man marching with the Rev. Martin Luther King in Selma, standing up to McCarthyism, and fighting for his beloved Hudson River. The gigantic life captured in this slender volume is truly an American anthem.

For January: No God but God by Reza Aslan

No god but God: The Origins, Evolution, and Future of IslamFor January, we have chosen Reza Aslan's No god but God: The Origins, Evolution, and Future of Islam,
Though it is the fastest-growing religion in the world, Islam remains shrouded in ignorance and fear for much of the West. In No god but God, Reza Aslan, an internationally acclaimed scholar of religions, explains this faith in all its beauty and complexity. Beginning with a vivid account of the social and religious milieu in which the Prophet Muhammad forged his message, Aslan paints a portrait of the first Muslim community as a radical experiment in religious pluralism and social egalitarianism. He demonstrates how, after the Prophet’s death, his successors attempted to interpret his message for future generations–an overwhelming task that fractured the Muslim community into competing sects. Finally, Aslan examines how, in the shadow of European colonialism, Muslims developed conflicting strategies to reconcile traditional Islamic values with the realities of the modern world, thus launching what Aslan terms the Islamic Reformation. Timely and persuasive, No god but God is an elegantly written account of a magnificent yet misunderstood faith.
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