Broken identity

Posted in Articles, Autobiography, Book/Video Reviews, United Kingdom on 2018-02-26 23:01Z by Steven

Broken identity

The Times Literary Supplement
2018-01-31

Bernardine Evaristo


Afua Hirsch ©Ken McKay/ITV/REX/Shutterstock

Afua Hirsch, Brit(ish): On Race, Identity and Belonging (London: Jonathan Cape, 2018)

People of colour raised in the openly racist Britain of the 1960s and 70s often put an identity quest at the heart of their fiction, poetry, drama and non-fiction. Joan Riley’s novel about an alienated girl, The Unbelonging (1985), and Caryl Phillips’s pan-European travelogue, The European Tribe (1988), provide powerful early examples. Hanif Kureishi’s first novel, The Buddha of Suburbia (1990), opens with the mixed-race protagonist declaring, “My name is Karim Amir, and I am an Englishman born and bred, almost”. In her play Talking in Tongues (1991), Winsome Pinnock wrote about an Afro-Caribbean woman who sought to reassemble her fragmented identity back in her parents’ Jamaica. In my own verse novel, Lara (1997), the mixed-race protagonist journeys to her father’s Nigeria to see if she can belong there. Back then, writing in this genre spoke of the dilemma of not feeling accepted in Britain; to the children of immigrants, the seemingly harmless question, “Where do you really come from?”, was seen as a challenge to their British birthright. Jackie Kay’s memorable poem “In My Country” encapsulates one response: “Where do you come from? / Here, I said, Here, these parts” (Other Lovers, 1993).

It is a question I haven’t been asked in decades; I hoped it had died out along with the idea that Black and British was an oxymoron. Afua Hirsch’s Brit(ish), however, finds it still tripping out of people’s mouths, as the most “persistent reminder of that sense of not belonging”. The book digs deep into the reasons for this enduring question, skilfully blending memoir, history and social commentary around race, culture and identity. Hirsch writes with an incisive honesty that disproves the idea that privilege can be easily reduced to racial binaries. She fully acknowledges the exclusive pedigree of her own background as a lighter-skinned woman of mixed parentage in a colourist society, who enjoyed a comfortable middle-class suburban childhood with her Ghanaian-born mother and English Jewish father. Her education was private all the way to Oxford University, and led to a first career as a barrister. Ten years ago she became a journalist. Hirsch is ostensibly the successful embodiment of Britain’s multicultural project, but her privileged status has not immunized her from the perniciousness of racism…

Read the entire book review here.

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Brit(ish): On Race, Identity and Belonging

Posted in Books, History, Identity Development/Psychology, Media Archive, Monographs, Social Justice, United Kingdom on 2018-02-03 03:05Z by Steven

Brit(ish): On Race, Identity and Belonging

Jonathan Cape (an imprint of Penguin Random House UK)
2018-02-01
384 Pages
15.6 x 3 x 24 cm
ISBN-13: 978-1911214281

Afua Hirsch

Where are you really from?

You’re British. Your parents are British. You were raised in Britain. Your partner, your children and most of your friends are British.

So why do people keep asking you where you are from?

Brit(ish) is about a search for identity. It is about the everyday racism that plagues British society. It is about our awkward, troubled relationship with our history. It is about why liberal attempts to be ‘colour-blind’ have caused more problems than they have solved. It is about why we continue to avoid talking about race.

In this personal and provocative investigation, Afua Hirsch explores a very British crisis of identity. We are a nation in denial about our past and our present. We believe we are the nation of abolition, but forget we are the nation of slavery. We are convinced that fairness is one of our values, but that immigration is one of our problems. Brit(ish) is the story of how and why this came to be, and an urgent call for change.

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“She’s not exotic. She’s not from a tribe in the Amazon. She’s American”: Gina Yashere on Meghan Markle’s engagement

Posted in Interviews, Media Archive, United Kingdom, Videos on 2017-12-04 01:21Z by Steven

“She’s not exotic. She’s not from a tribe in the Amazon. She’s American”: Gina Yashere on Meghan Markle’s engagement

Channel 4 News
London, United Kingdom
2017-11-28

Cathy Newman, Presenter

Interview with author Afua Hirsch and Charlie Brinkhurst-Cuff who is deputy editor of gal-dem – an online magazine written by women of colour. And from New York – the comedian Gina Yashere.

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When Meghan weds Harry, Britain’s relationship with race will change for ever

Posted in Articles, Media Archive, United Kingdom on 2017-11-27 21:28Z by Steven

When Meghan weds Harry, Britain’s relationship with race will change for ever

The Guardian
2017-11-27

Afua Hirsch

Don’t underestimate the symbolism of a royal marriage. From now on, it will be impossible to argue that being black is somehow incompatible with being British

Almost two decades ago, during the heady first months of the new millennium, an unruly baroness named Kate Gavron made a shocking suggestion. Prince Charles, she said, should have married someone black. It would be, she imagined, a powerful symbol of the monarchy’s commitment to racial integration and multiculturalism.

Gavron’s comments were not well received at the time. As is so often the case with race and the royals, far more interesting than these remarks themselves, were the media reactions to them. Some suspected this was merely a clandestine attempt at “getting rid” of the monarchy, erasing their heritage through interracial marriages. Not so much revolution, as racial dilution.

Others assumed that for the Prince of Wales to marry a “black girl” – as the hypothetical person was described – would be to return to the loveless, strategic marriages the royals were once so famous for. It was obvious to commentators at the time that marrying a black girl, and marrying someone you actually loved, were both antithetical and mutually exclusive. After all, you couldn’t expect an heir to the throne to actually be attracted to such a person…

Read the entire article here.

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Afua Hirsch: Our parents left Africa – now we are coming home

Posted in Africa, Articles, History, Identity Development/Psychology, Media Archive, United Kingdom, Women on 2012-08-26 22:51Z by Steven

Afua Hirsch: Our parents left Africa – now we are coming home

The Guardian
2012-08-25

Afua Hirsch, West Africa Correspondent

As a child in London, Afua Hirsch was embarrassed by her African roots. Then, in February, she became a ‘returnee’, choosing to live in her parents’ birthplace, Ghana. Her story is echoed across the continent: attracted by economic opportunity and a new sense of optimism, the African diaspora is starting to come back.

When I was a teenager, my mother overheard me telling my peers that I was Jamaican, a clearly absurd statement from a half-Ghanaian, half-English girl whose first name is one of the most common in a major African language.

My mother, born and raised in Ghana, was mortified. Although in part I was living out the now well-documented struggle of mixed race youngsters to grasp their identity, mainly I was just embarrassed. It wasn’t cool to be African in those days and in my ignorant teenage way, I was acting out a much bigger crisis of confidence, one that had been swallowing Africans and spitting them out as permanent economic migrants in Europe and America ever since the end of colonialism…

…For my mother, that was the wake-up call she needed to organise our first trip to the west African land of her birth, an essential re-education in our roots. In 1995, we visited the Ghanaian capital, Accra, for the first time. I remember the usual things that people comment on when visiting equatorial African nations for the first time – the assault of hot air when stepping off the plane, which I confused with engine heat, the smell of spice and smoked fish on the air, and – most significantly for me – the fact that everyone was black. It sounds obvious but I had never really seen officials in uniform – immigration authorities, police, customs officers – with black skin. I don’t think I had realised that there was a world in which black people could be in charge…

Read the entire article here.

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