Wednesday 14 October 2015

On the Man Booker and Marginalised Voices

It was very exciting, last night, to follow the Man Booker 2015 announcement on Twitter.

Unlike the Goldsmith's Prize, which has been much criticised this year for the lack of diversity its current shortlist, the Man Booker 2015 shortlist included a Nigerian author (Chigozie Obioma), a British Asian author (Sunjeev Sahota), an American author of Hawaiian ancestry (Hanya Yanagihara)  - and the eventual winner, Marlon James, who is from Jamaica.

I listened to James being interviewed on BBC Radio 4's Today programme this morning. He talked about his first manuscript being rejected 78 times - about giving up on writing so thoroughly that he not only destroyed the manuscript but went round all his friends' computers and deleted all the copies he could find there too.

I don't know how you come back from that, but luckily for us he did.

Unfortunately for me, the winning title, A Brief History of Seven Killings, is not brief. Nor is it a book you can take at a run. It's complex narrative with a cast of over 70 characters and multiple, disjointed points of view, some written in heavy dialect and all more or less as streams of consciousness, needs to be digested slowly. Right now, I am roughly halfway through, but I am inevitably going to be behind the curve reviewing it.

Update: my review of A Brief History of Seven Killings now published on BookMuse.

In the meantime, in honour of James's struggle to get his extraordinary voice heard, here are a sample of a diverse and sometimes marginalised voices I have recently reviewed for Book Muse UK. Follow the links to read the full reviews.

My Name is Not Easy by Debby Dahl Edwardson
"Edwardson captures, at times with exquisite poetry, the experience of a handful of Alaskan Iñupiaq and Athabaskan children shipped off to one of the now infamous residential boarding schools."

If I Ever Get Out of Here by Eric Gansworth
"A book about negotiating friendship and trust from across a chasm of cultural differences, from the subtleties of telephone etiquette to the logistics of using a two-hole privy in sub-zero temperatures. It also brims over with a love of music – especially the Beatles, Wings and Queen."

"As a portrayal of angsty teenage boyhood, this book belongs in the tradition of Josef Svorecki’sThe Cowards and JD Salinger’s Catcher in the Rye."

Finding Arun by Marisha Pink
"The novel blends a sweet tale of self-discovery and sibling love with the unfolding of a dark family secret, all set against the background of one of India’s most holy cities."

Rodriguez’s account of La Vida Loca is raw – his depictions of sex, violence and drug taking sometimes eye-wateringly graphic. It needs to be. The life he depicts is real, and the young people the book is aimed at are living it.

Pyschoraag by Suhayl Saadi
"An exhausting, fascinating, thought-provoking book. Not for the faint-hearted but for those willing to take on the challenge, definitely worth it."

"Sadikali does what the media has so singularly failed to do - show us shades and variations within the British Muslim community. Not between extremists and others – but within one ordinary family."

"At its heart, a complex and tender love triangle, one that mixes friendship, loyalty, duty and the desire for independence."