The Life & Times of a Very British Man, By Kamal Ahmed. - Hardcover
Kamal Ahmed's childhood was very 'British' in every way - except for the fact that he was brown. Half English, half Sudanese, he was raised in 1970s London at a time when being mixed-race meant being told to go home, even when you were born just down the road.
The Life and Times of a Very British Man makes the case for a new conversation about race in Britain through personal stories, political analysis and passionate belief in the ultimate good of this country - white, black and brown. Kamal recounts the extraordinary circumstances that led to his father, a proud Sudanese scientist, marrying his mother, a grammar-school educated woman from Yorkshire - and the first white person he had ever met. It was a time when wearing a miniskirt was an act of social rebellion, when 'niggers' and 'coloureds' still formed part of the national lexicon and when Enoch Powell's infamous 'Rivers of Blood' speech cast a shadow over the childhood of a schoolboy in Ealing.
Witty and humane, this is a modern state-of-the-nation from a man who adopted the name Neil growing up (it was better than 'camel') and went on to occupy one of the most elite positions in the British establishment. It is also a call to recognise that this very British mix is the foundation for Britain as we know it - from Linford Christie taking Olympic gold to the era-defining music of Soul II Soul - and a study of why, when we consider the often fractious debate about our identity, there are still great grounds for optimism.
Sparky, accessible and stimulating (Observer)Full of charm. Will no doubt deepen the conversation on race and identity in Britain (Guardian)Compelling. Ahmed writes evocatively of his almost cloyingly British upbringing: life in the suburbs: bucket-and-spade hols, cricket and card games with (white) Granddad. And yet, as Ahmed observes, he has always felt a little alien in his homeland. It is clear that Ahmed has done his homework - spoken to an enormous number of people, read endless studies. The book is a valuable addition to a growing body of work on what it means to be mixed race in modern Britain (Sunday Times)Ahmed draws on his experiences as a half-English, half-Sudanese child in 70's London for an account of what being British means (50 Top Reads for Autumn, i-paper)Captures a country in transition. Even allowing for the lofty vantage point [Ahmed] looks back from as economics editor of the BBC, his story has a touch of the every man about it. Ahmed recounts all this with elegance and wry humour. You can't fail to be moved(The Times)Excellent. Ahmed grew up as a mixed-race kid in west London in the Seventies, and his book charts the progress (sometimes slow and not without a few setbacks along the way) that our country has made on race issues since then. Brilliant (Rohan Silva Evening Standard)