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Lockdown 1 & 2, and 2020 in general has given me time to pause and reflect. It’s reminded me that over the last few years I haven’t been reading as much as I used to, and not nearly as much as I’d like to.

East of Hounslow by Khurram Rahman: Book 1 of 3 of the Jay Qasim series. Main plotline is a local drug dealer scouted by MI5 for a mission. It’s a funny and fresh take on informant/spy thriller lit.

Generation M by Shelina Janmohamed: The book is subtitled “Young Muslims Changing the World” and is a journey into what young Muslims today are really about. Shortly before the launch of Generation M, when interviewed by The Guardian, Shelina sort of summed up my feelings about the book

When you’re talking about Muslims in particular, but actually people of religion in general, the images you get are really quite depressing. But I think this [the cover image] really captures it. It’s bold, it’s vibrant, the woman’s got so much attitude. They are exactly the kind of people I’m writing about.

It’s Not About The Burka by Mariam Khan: Subtitled “Muslim Women on Faith, Feminism, Sexuality and Race” that’s the book in a nutshell. I, for one, am fed up of politicians, media, misogynists, white feminists (one size of feminism does not fit all), and other commentators speaking on behalf of Muslim Women without actually involving Muslim Women in that discourse. This book is an anthology of experiences, thoughts and opinions of 17 Muslim Women speaking for themselves. It’s taking back Muslim Women’s voices and making them heard.

It’s Not About The Burka is a book that I hope that some non-Muslim members of my own extended family read and broaden their minds to what being Muslim really is about. Perhaps they would then critically evaluate the mass media articles that they read, believe and share on social media. Out of all non-Muslims, they have access to dozens of Muslims in their own family, yet never reach out to us to ask questions or educate themselves. Perhaps a book that allows them to read at their own pace would help them understand different and very real perspectives.

Taking Up Space by Chelsea Kwakye and Ore Ogunbiyi: I’ve followed these amazing women on Twitter for some time. Both are now Cambridge University graduates who battled univeristy culture on so may levels just to get through their degrees on an even footing.

Universities in Britain claim to be all about Diversity & Inclusion, and love to throw about their diversity stats – especially after A-Level results day ‘we’ve admitted [insert number here] number of BAME students‘ (don’t get me started on why BAME is an awful descriptive). The inclusion part of their policy is sorely lacking.

Reading Chelsea and Ore’s first-hand experiences is a great guide for black, brown, blessed-with-melanin students across the UK on how to navigate higher education with the backdrop of diversity without inclusion. It’s also a guide for non-melanated people to be better at recognising when they are putting up these barriers and take responsibility.

It is my firm belief, and that of the authors that it is high time that responsibility for equality is placed onto those that are standing in the way of equality. Put simply, systemic and structural racism and inequality is not an issue for Black and Brown people to solve. We’re not the cause… those perpetrating racism and perpetuating structural racism need to step up and fix their own bias.

In progress

  • Narcopolis by Jeet Thayil – I started reading this years ago but the subject matter is quite heavy, as it relates to the drugs trade in India and the effects thereof.
  • The Lives of Others by Neel Mukherjee – Another book I started a number of years ago but never finished. Set in 1960s Calcutta, it explores the chasm between the rich and poor.
  • The Aunt Who Wouldn’t Die by Shirshendu Mukhopadhyay– This is a light-hearted intergenerational story with a deeper message, and a book that I am looking forward to reading as a way of balancing out the heavy tone of my recent reads.
  • NLP – I’m trying to broaden my outlook and brush up on my NLP skills from years ago

Cookie by Jacqueline Wilson – this is not my choice of book to be honest. It’s my pre-teen daughters book but it covers some pretty tough experiences. I wanted to read it first so that if it triggers any uncomfortable or upsetting issues, I can support her through reading it.

So what’s up next?

Next up is a bit of history and culture for me. I’m delving back into my roots and using my alone time to reconnect with my heritage.

My children are growing up and have started to ask more about our heritage. They’ve heard tales of our family history and they want to know more. I didn’t grow up in Bangladesh and my parents moved to the UK when they were young.

My children are in-tune with our culture through food, family and community cultural events (pre-covid) but we’re a little light on history and literary language. My daughter in particular wants to know more about our roots, so I need to brush up on it myself before I can teach my girl. My reading so far has got me gripped, and I hope my children end up enjoying it as much as I am.