wrong on so many levels

Last week I went to the reading that Monica Ali gave at Dutton’s in Brentwood. Ali read an excerpt from further along in the book, when her character Nazneen, a Bengali village girl transplanted to Tower Hamlets in London, goes with her husband Chanu and her daughters sightseeing around the city. After the reading was over, the hostess, in a white dentelle shirt, red flower in her hair, was the first to ask a question. “Please,” she said, “tell us about yourself.” Her interest in the author, if not the book, was apparent. An old man at the front wanted to know “Did you grow up in Tower Hamlets?” and so on. I thought when a book makes the bestseller list, it meant that people were actually reading it. Silly me. They’re just interested in the pretty girl on the cover. But it got worse. Someone else asked, “Were you raised black or white?” If she was stunned, Ali didn’t let on. She explained that she was in fact half Bengali and half British, that she was born in Dhaka and bred in London, etc. The man persisted, “Which parent were you closer to?” “Who did you talk to more?” he demanded. Welcome to the melting pot.

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