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'Could not be more enjoyable, engaging or moving' Observer "It's 1979, I'm three years old, and like all breakfast times during my youth it begins with Mum combing my hair, a ritual for which I have to sit down on the second-hand, floral-patterned settee, and lean forward, like I'm presenting myself for execution." For Sathnam Sanghera, growing up in Wolverhampton in the eig 'Could not be more enjoyable, engaging or moving' Observer "It's 1979, I'm three years old, and like all breakfast times during my youth it begins with Mum combing my hair, a ritual for which I have to sit down on the second-hand, floral-patterned settee, and lean forward, like I'm presenting myself for execution." For Sathnam Sanghera, growing up in Wolverhampton in the eighties was a confusing business. On the one hand, these were the heady days of George Michael mix-tapes, Dallas on TV and, if he was lucky, the occasional Bounty Bar. On the other, there was his wardrobe of tartan smocks, his 30p-an-hour job at the local sewing factory and the ongoing challenge of how to tie the perfect top-knot. And then there was his family, whose strange and often difficult behaviour he took for granted until, at the age of twenty-four, Sathnam made a discovery that changed everything he ever thought he knew about them. Equipped with breathtaking courage and a glorious sense of humour, he embarks on a journey into their extraordinary past - from his father's harsh life in rural Punjab to the steps of the Wolverhampton Tourist Office - trying to make sense of a life lived among secrets. 'I absolutely loved it. Heartbreaking and wonderful. He writes beautifully' Maggie O'Farrell 'Tragic, funny and disturbing. It will challenge you, and may even change you' Carole Angier, Independent Published in hardback as If You Don't Know Me by Now


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'Could not be more enjoyable, engaging or moving' Observer "It's 1979, I'm three years old, and like all breakfast times during my youth it begins with Mum combing my hair, a ritual for which I have to sit down on the second-hand, floral-patterned settee, and lean forward, like I'm presenting myself for execution." For Sathnam Sanghera, growing up in Wolverhampton in the eig 'Could not be more enjoyable, engaging or moving' Observer "It's 1979, I'm three years old, and like all breakfast times during my youth it begins with Mum combing my hair, a ritual for which I have to sit down on the second-hand, floral-patterned settee, and lean forward, like I'm presenting myself for execution." For Sathnam Sanghera, growing up in Wolverhampton in the eighties was a confusing business. On the one hand, these were the heady days of George Michael mix-tapes, Dallas on TV and, if he was lucky, the occasional Bounty Bar. On the other, there was his wardrobe of tartan smocks, his 30p-an-hour job at the local sewing factory and the ongoing challenge of how to tie the perfect top-knot. And then there was his family, whose strange and often difficult behaviour he took for granted until, at the age of twenty-four, Sathnam made a discovery that changed everything he ever thought he knew about them. Equipped with breathtaking courage and a glorious sense of humour, he embarks on a journey into their extraordinary past - from his father's harsh life in rural Punjab to the steps of the Wolverhampton Tourist Office - trying to make sense of a life lived among secrets. 'I absolutely loved it. Heartbreaking and wonderful. He writes beautifully' Maggie O'Farrell 'Tragic, funny and disturbing. It will challenge you, and may even change you' Carole Angier, Independent Published in hardback as If You Don't Know Me by Now

30 review for The Boy with the Topknot: A Memoir of Love, Secrets and Lies

  1. 4 out of 5

    Petra-X Off having adventures

    This is a book about integration of the parts of a life into a whole. The first strand is his parents' traditional outlook and the author's upbringing as a Sikh in a Punjabi community in Wolverhampton. The Punjabis live in this modern city but are scarcely part of it, maintaining their own language, culture, food, religion and rules that are as strong as laws. The second strand is the author's desire to be a modern man, Cambridge-educated, aspiring to the middle class from the poverty of his hom This is a book about integration of the parts of a life into a whole. The first strand is his parents' traditional outlook and the author's upbringing as a Sikh in a Punjabi community in Wolverhampton. The Punjabis live in this modern city but are scarcely part of it, maintaining their own language, culture, food, religion and rules that are as strong as laws. The second strand is the author's desire to be a modern man, Cambridge-educated, aspiring to the middle class from the poverty of his home with a love of fast fancy cars that are as far away from the ox-cars of the poor, Asian village his parents grew up in as the ISS is to us. The third strand is the schizophrenia of his father and sister, Half a household, two thirds when he left home, are plagued by an illness characterised by not having a shared frame of reference with the un-mad world. No matter what other effects the disordered mind has on the sufferer, that is the barrier to communication of even an ordinary kind. The fourth strand is the author's mother. She is a very devout and tradition-minded woman who cares for the sick and tries hard to lay aside her prejudices and religion-based attitudes to accept her much-beloved son, the author, and his life. They have a world of their own together, but all elements must combine for the mother and the author to fully participate in each other's lives. How the author does this is the story he writes.

  2. 5 out of 5

    Caroline

    This book was full of surprises, as it morphs from one sphere of experience into another. It starts out with a fairly jokey and self-deprecating description of Sanghera's successful and trendy lifestyle in London. He works for a major newspaper (The Times), attends dinner parties with clever friends, has various girlfriends - some of them white - and at one stage even mentions test driving a Porsche. Then we move onto the second reality, when he drives up to Wolverhampton to see his family. His p This book was full of surprises, as it morphs from one sphere of experience into another. It starts out with a fairly jokey and self-deprecating description of Sanghera's successful and trendy lifestyle in London. He works for a major newspaper (The Times), attends dinner parties with clever friends, has various girlfriends - some of them white - and at one stage even mentions test driving a Porsche. Then we move onto the second reality, when he drives up to Wolverhampton to see his family. His parents can't speak English, and their lives seem very much to be a continuation of the Sikh Punjabi farming culture that they originally came from. He describes his mother as seeped in tradition. She wants to arrange a marriage for him, not only to a Sikh girl, but one from the right caste too. This is a major issue for Sanghera, and it forms the backbone of the book. He is frightened to let his mother know how far he has moved from Sikh traditions in his London lifestyle - and particularly he wants to be free to date and marry anyone to whom he is attracted. Towards the end of the book he says something interesting about his mother. "Mum is such a strong presence in her world, but out of context she always looks vulnerable." To the reader, when he first goes up Wolverhampton, we see her as quite a vulnerable figure - enmeshed with ideas that are perhaps quite removed from our own. Sanghera's fear of telling her about his dating history and goals seem odd. All the cards seem stacked in his favour - this glamorous Oxbridge graduate working for a major paper - why can't he just tell his mother that he will date and marry whoever he wants to? But then we come to the third reality. We get a picture of Sanghera's childhood, a boy growing up with three siblings in a happy family, and slowly we learn of the huge role his mother has played in creating this environment for all of them. It was only when he was 24, that he realised that his father had schizophrenia. (view spoiler)[ Early on in their marriage his father was violent towards his mother, and kept losing jobs due to aggression towards workmates. (No-one in the broader family had heard of schizophrenia. Many of the relatives thought his behaviour was due to him being cursed by his wife.) Eventually his father was diagnosed, and stopped working. The violence stopped, and by the time Sanghera was born he only knew a peaceful and kindly father, who walked him to school and spent time with him at the park. (hide spoiler)] His mother worked incredibly hard in a sewing factory and at home, in order to bring in money. Then after achieving 9 O-levels, his older sister Puli got schizophrenia too, but due largely to the presence of his mother, family life continued on an even keel. His mother was obviously a great source of strength in the family. Some of the book is devoted to Sanghera's research into Sikh Punjabi culture in the UK, some looks at schizophrenia - most of all trying to find out more about his father's history with the illness. The book ends with Sanghera coming out to his mother about his life in London, and saying that he doesn't want an arranged marriage. The process is enormously freeing. He also talks to various members of his family about what has happened, and has conversations with his sister Puli about how her life as worked out. (view spoiler)[< blockquote>She is now married with two children. (hide spoiler)] At the beginning the book was all about secrets and cultural differences, and at the end it was about honesty and building bridges. One senses that Sanghera now has a much closer relationship with his family. In 2009 the book was awarded MIND book of the year. MIND is the biggest mental health charity in the UK.

  3. 5 out of 5

    Hadi

    A mixed bag book of a book. The first few chapters were so self indulgent and trite that I would have stopped reading if it hadn't been highly recommended by my sister. Anyway I stuck it through to the end and realized there are three books here which evoked very different reactions. The first is Sanghera's personal misery-memoir. The whole source of his misery seems to be his (perceived) misfortune in being born a brown sikh working class lad from Wolverhampton rather rather than white Church of A mixed bag book of a book. The first few chapters were so self indulgent and trite that I would have stopped reading if it hadn't been highly recommended by my sister. Anyway I stuck it through to the end and realized there are three books here which evoked very different reactions. The first is Sanghera's personal misery-memoir. The whole source of his misery seems to be his (perceived) misfortune in being born a brown sikh working class lad from Wolverhampton rather rather than white Church of England middleclass public school boy from Cheltenham. He equates being sikh with being working class poor in north England. Much of what he writes about - never being in restaurant or having a bath - has been written before by white working class writers. Sanghera has a degree in English Literature from Cambridge so he's probably more familiar with those authors than I am. The reminisces - his George Michael obsession, alloo-gobi paranthas in his lunch as opposed to white bread sandwiches, setting up a bank - are cute but a bit random, more suited to a conversation than a book; they evoked a "so what?" response. I think my negative reactions arose because I perceived a certain dishonesty in the writing; decrying his background while capitalizing on the Unique Selling Point of being a brown sikh in his circle of non-Punjabi, mostly white friends and girlfriends. Sanghera comes across as a supercilious self-satisfied snob. If this was all there was I would give this book one star ... BUT The second 'book' is the story of his father and sister's schizophrenia and his investigation into his parents marriage. His descriptions of his parents marriage and their troubles, his dealings with the doctor etc are well written and honest with a nice touch of self-deprecating humour. Three stars for this story. The third 'book' is about his relationship with his mother. This is wonderfully done; the anecdotes and stories are charming and speak volumes. She makes him two extra chappatis than he asks for because she knew he would always ask for fewer than he wanted; he asks for fewer than he wants because he knows she will always give an extra two. Her refusal to sit on the leather seats until he tells her it will cost money to change to a new rental car. How he misses important things she says because she slips them in long boring monologues about falling standards in supermarkets and such like. The love and respect he has are always present. I loved reading these sections. Four stars (I'd give it 5 except for that letter). So putting it all together, three stars. I'm glad I read it through to the end. When he started trying to understand his family instead of being ashamed/embarassed by them I got over my bad reaction to the opening chapters, and I really liked him by end of the book. He seemed to have understood some very profound truths about families, not just his own but about families in general.

  4. 5 out of 5

    Vivienne

    I had expected this memoir to be focused entirely on Sanghera's experiences in reconciling his life in London with the culture and traditional values that he had grown up with and which are still held by his parents and extended family. His account of he and his siblings having to conceal their pop music and other Western items reminded me of Lane Kim from The Gilmore Girls. Certainly it was a moving, often funny account of his growing up in the 1980s. However, the major theme of a family coping I had expected this memoir to be focused entirely on Sanghera's experiences in reconciling his life in London with the culture and traditional values that he had grown up with and which are still held by his parents and extended family. His account of he and his siblings having to conceal their pop music and other Western items reminded me of Lane Kim from The Gilmore Girls. Certainly it was a moving, often funny account of his growing up in the 1980s. However, the major theme of a family coping with severe mental illness and Sanghera's attempts to understand schizophrenia came as a real surprise. Even though secrets are mentioned on the back cover blurb as well as the subtitle; there was no outward clue that the memoir deals with mental health issues. In 2009 it was named MIND's Book of the Year; an accolade awarded to the best literary contributions to raising awareness around issues of mental distress. In accepting the award, the author said "there are hardly any books about Asian communities’ experiences of mental health problems, so I hope people read this book and it leads to more understanding.”I am sure that it will. Overall, I found this a wonderful book. It was sad and shocking at times, though never became a misery memoir. It was also frank, moving and funny. It certainly gave me a greater understanding of another culture and religion that exists alongside my own. In addition, I found it an intelligent and compassionate account of this much misunderstood mental illnesses that can effect anyone no matter their cultural background. I was very grateful to our local librarian for choosing it for our reading group. It generated a great deal of discussion.

  5. 5 out of 5

    Tweedledum

    Satnam Sanghera has risen from the boy with no English in ordinary Wolverhampton school to a respected journalist on a national paper. Yet who of his school mates would know that each day he was going home to a family plagued by mental illness. This memoir must have taken a lot of courage to write not only on Satnam's part but on the part of the family who gave him permission to write. Others have said, and I agree that it was "unputdownable" and certainly had me glued to the page, but unusually Satnam Sanghera has risen from the boy with no English in ordinary Wolverhampton school to a respected journalist on a national paper. Yet who of his school mates would know that each day he was going home to a family plagued by mental illness. This memoir must have taken a lot of courage to write not only on Satnam's part but on the part of the family who gave him permission to write. Others have said, and I agree that it was "unputdownable" and certainly had me glued to the page, but unusually for me I immediately gave my copy away as I though it too important to stay on my shelves! A book that challenges ignorance both about our multi- faceted community and about mental illness.

  6. 5 out of 5

    Dan Sihota

    I first heard of this book not long after its release and the first thing that caught my interest is that it is by someone, Sathnam Sanghera, who is from a similar background as myself, someone born to immigrant parents from Punjab, India, settled in the West Midlands area of the UK. Like many children of immigrants, there's a constant struggle between the traditional culture of the parents and adapting to the norms of the wider culture, and in this case, I was sure there would be many things I I first heard of this book not long after its release and the first thing that caught my interest is that it is by someone, Sathnam Sanghera, who is from a similar background as myself, someone born to immigrant parents from Punjab, India, settled in the West Midlands area of the UK. Like many children of immigrants, there's a constant struggle between the traditional culture of the parents and adapting to the norms of the wider culture, and in this case, I was sure there would be many things I would find similar to my own experience of growing up in a similar environment. However, I was less keen on reading this book when I saw it was a memoir, a work of non-fiction. I have never really been keen on reading memoirs, the cynical part of me sees them as an excuse for the author to make a bit of extra money by telling a story of their life, something many famous people can be accused of, such as actors, politicians, sports people, celebrities, etc. So a memoir by a journalist of my own age range didn't have me immediately reaching for it. Last year the BBC produced a drama based on this book, I could see certain aspects of the story had been altered for the dramatisation, this got me interested in the book again, so I recently got myself a copy to read it for myself. There are two stories within this book: the first is the author struggling to balance his own lifestyle choices in contrast to the demands placed on him by his traditional Punjabi family; and the second is that of mental illness in his family, first affecting his father, and then his elder sister. Talking about the latter story first: this is an excellent insight into traditional Punjabi culture, specifically, how you do not talk about problems, as if not talking about them means no problems exist, I'm sure such denial is shared with many other cultures. What makes things a little more difficult in this case is that the first generation of Punjabi immigrants to the UK was poorly educated if at all, spoke little or no English, and struggled to fit in the wider UK society. This resulted in these British Punjabis creating their own culture based on the traditional culture they had been used to in rural Punjab. One aspect of this traditional culture is the constant obsession people have with worrying what other members of their community will think of their actions. It's also interesting to note how, on one hand, Punjabis may hold strong religious beliefs which are against drinking alcohol, as well as promoting equality and tolerance, yet on the other hand, Punjabis have a reputation for being big drinkers and will openly discriminate on the grounds of gender, social status, race, religion, etc. So, being raised in such an environment would explain why the author grew up, the youngest of four children, with little knowledge of many of the problems affecting the family, especially anything to do with mental illness. Mental illness is rarely openly discussed in Punjabi culture, few people are willing to admit to such problems, often fearing the reaction of other members of the community who may shun them, as if mental illness is a contagious disease which you can easily catch off someone. It's often far easier to explain mental illness as something caused by black magic, which means someone is to blame for casting this evil spell. The author has to use all of his skills as a journalist in order to learn about certain events in his family history, which is far from easy when many of the facts appear to be contradictory. As for the other story in the book: the cynical side of me seems to be justified in its dislike of memoirs. I get the impression that the author feels a sense of guilt for some of his lifestyle choices over the years and is simply trying to justify to himself that his actions are wholly justified, despite what his traditional parents might think. People who inhabit in two cultures often find themselves having to choose between one or the other, such a decision may not be easy, balancing one's own happiness against the family's happiness. However, what I do find wrong is when someone decides to lead a double life, based on lying to people, which allows them to inhabit both worlds where the two lives never meet. A life based on lies is not something which should ever be encouraged as it will inevitably hurt many people involved. If we are more concerned with choosing a life which is based on pleasing others than we are with our happiness, then we can't complain if we are unhappy afterwards. If we choose a life based on pursuing our own happiness, then there is no reason to feel guilty if it upsets anyone close to us. It seems that the author wanted a life where everyone, including himself, was happy, but gradually realised this wasn't going to happen. So, he didn't choose to pursue a life based on his own happiness as he was already enjoying such a life, but he chose to stop trying to please others. Such a choice doesn't sound like an earth-shattering event. And all of the author's attempts to justify his decision seem like an attempt to justify to himself his years of lying. Overall, this book is full of wit, and is well-written, making it an enjoyable read. I would recommend this book to anyone interested in learning more about what it was like to grow up in the UK as children of Punjabi immigrants.

  7. 5 out of 5

    Francesca

    Very interesting book about the life of an Indian man in London. I particularly enjoyed the way he talked about the mental illness of his relatives and the dilemma he had to face about living his life the way he wanted knowing his mother would disapprove.

  8. 5 out of 5

    Laura Besley

    I think one of the main reasons I read is to be informed, not by reading dry non-fiction books, but by reading fiction. Most of the books I have loved are set in different places or different times. However, Sanghera's book is non-fiction, but has the pace and grip of a novel. I found myself rooting for him as I would any other character and am in awe of his ability to write this way as well as his courage to be so honest. A thoroughly enjoyable, and informative, read. I think one of the main reasons I read is to be informed, not by reading dry non-fiction books, but by reading fiction. Most of the books I have loved are set in different places or different times. However, Sanghera's book is non-fiction, but has the pace and grip of a novel. I found myself rooting for him as I would any other character and am in awe of his ability to write this way as well as his courage to be so honest. A thoroughly enjoyable, and informative, read.

  9. 4 out of 5

    Raj

    This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here. Overall I enjoyed this book. I am also a 1st generation Brit with parents from Punjab. I identified with all the anguish, awkwardness and cultural clashes Satnam endured. He writes well and is very entertaining resulting in some laugh out louds late at night. However I found it did not address or really go beyond just touching on the inherent sexism and misogyny in Punjabi culture. He does mention the differences between how his life has worked out and how his eldest sister’s has worked out but t Overall I enjoyed this book. I am also a 1st generation Brit with parents from Punjab. I identified with all the anguish, awkwardness and cultural clashes Satnam endured. He writes well and is very entertaining resulting in some laugh out louds late at night. However I found it did not address or really go beyond just touching on the inherent sexism and misogyny in Punjabi culture. He does mention the differences between how his life has worked out and how his eldest sister’s has worked out but the difference is so stark it warranted more of a discussion. As a female I found it infuriating. Relationships between Punjabi daughters and their mothers do not generally end in a cute letter sent one way and virtually unconditional acceptance. I was also shocked and disappointed that he did not call out his mother in any big way when she said he could marry a ‘gori’ but not a ‘churi or chamari’. Is this not gross racism? Also I’m not sure why all the anti-doctor sentiment peppered throughout the book? Overall a funny and entertaining read, a lot of which I could identify with but I felt a daughter in the same family writing her story would result in a totally different book.

  10. 4 out of 5

    Jan

    A very enjoyable and well written memoir that gives a great insight into life as a British Indian who has embraced a western lifestyle but still has respect for his parents tradition values.

  11. 5 out of 5

    Emily

    This book is about the challenge of integrating two completely different lives and Sathnam’s sense of himself. He says in a video of himself on his own website that every time he thought about his other life, his past, when he was living in London, he felt sick, felt a sense of vertigo and just couldn’t make sense of it. He avoided thinking about his past life – which explains why he did not find out until by accident at the age of 25 that his father was schizophrenic. The core of the book seems This book is about the challenge of integrating two completely different lives and Sathnam’s sense of himself. He says in a video of himself on his own website that every time he thought about his other life, his past, when he was living in London, he felt sick, felt a sense of vertigo and just couldn’t make sense of it. He avoided thinking about his past life – which explains why he did not find out until by accident at the age of 25 that his father was schizophrenic. The core of the book seems to be about Sathnam saying to his mother that he needs to be allowed to be himself in this cross cultural web and decide his own destiny and not go along any longer with the pretence that he will marry a Sikh. He says in the video that he has fifty-four first cousins and pretty much all of them have gone along with convention and an arranged marriage. Sathnam says: “I knew that in the event of a confrontation with my Mum she would say that if you knew what I’d been through you wouldn’t do this, which is the kind of universal cry of the emotionally blackmailing cry of mums across the world. So I thought, you know what, I will find out exactly what you went through…” It is as much about this as about the more dramatic dark secret of schizophrenia – from which his mother protected him to allow him his childhood. Of course these dark secrets may be desperately mundane and managed in a twilight world of drug treatment, long term unemployment and daytime live TV coverage of Parliament. Sathnam carries through this theme by successfully communicating with his mother – she appears on the video speaking Punjabi explaining that when he gave her the letter and she read it she realised she had been overly strict and she now feels that he should marry who he wants to. Sathnam is very interested in his relationship with his mother – he wrote an article recently about taking his mother on a led walk specifically organised for ethnic minorities in the countryside, describing her puzzlement about why the moorland wasn’t farmed and put to good use and her reluctant enjoyment of it. He is exploring his mother’s life – what she went through – more than his father’s experience. This includes her experience of violent assaults by his father in his initially chaotic unmedicated schizophrenic episodes, when his father’s relatives assumed – and continued assuming for years – that he assaulted her because there was something wrong with her, that she was a witch who had jinxed him. You feel the book has enabled the family to come out of themselves – their experience is legitimate. “The book has made all of us appreciate each other much more. It has made all that we’ve been through, our story, our relationships much more transparent.” In between the crisis of Sathnam’s late twenties, trying to re-establish his relationship with his family to find out who they really are, and to establish a balance between the media London he has flung himself into and his Wolverhampton Sikh roots, in between all that we experience the noise and colour of Sathnam and his siblings growing up. They are obsessed by pop music and haircuts, taking their father’s stangeness for granted just like the dodgy wallpaper. Sathnam was extraordinary it seems. He wrote recently about how he and his brother wrote and won a caption competition to participate in a live Michael Jackson performance, and flew all the way to the US, courtesy of Jackson, to take part. To enter the competition, to win – only a true fan could do it. Sathnam says: “My mum went out of her way to protect me from the worst effects of the disease and whenever something terrible happened, made sure on a very basic level that I wasn’t around, so that my childhood wasn’t affected by any of that stuff. I spent my childhood lost in this kind of fog of cheesey 1980s pop music and had a really happy time. And I wanted the book to be a kind of tribute to my Mum for enabling me to have that remarkably happy childhood in this quite bleak context of severe mental illness.”

  12. 5 out of 5

    Pamela

    Fascinating memoir of the author's youth in his Punjabi Sikh family in Wolverhampton. Part of the memoir relates to his happy childhood, his frustration with the constraints of the traditional customs of his family, and his adult life as a journalist in London, where he continue to try (often unsuccessfully) to keep his two lives separate. Sanghera speaks warmly, with a dry and self-deprecating humour, of family members, of his mother's attempts to find him a nice Sikh wife, of Wolverhampton and Fascinating memoir of the author's youth in his Punjabi Sikh family in Wolverhampton. Part of the memoir relates to his happy childhood, his frustration with the constraints of the traditional customs of his family, and his adult life as a journalist in London, where he continue to try (often unsuccessfully) to keep his two lives separate. Sanghera speaks warmly, with a dry and self-deprecating humour, of family members, of his mother's attempts to find him a nice Sikh wife, of Wolverhampton and of his often childish naïveté about life in general. These parts are charming and amusing, and we often share the author's irritation and bewilderment. However, there is also a darker side to the memoir, which is very skilfully developed from early (and quickly suppressed) moments of unease about his father's quirky behaviour to the earth shattering discovery of serious mental illness in the family, and its knock-on effects on all those it touches, particularly his feared and adored mother. It is a story of shame and incomprehension, and Sanghera brilliantly and sensitively documents and challenges the attitudes that had made a difficult situation almost tragically unbearable. I really loved this tragicomic memoir, it was engaging and thought-provoking, and very well written too. It would have been easy to be flippant, cruel or self-pitying at certain points, but instead I found it thoughtful and affectionate and a joy to read.

  13. 5 out of 5

    Damian

    The Boy With the Top Knot is the true story of a boy called Sathnam and his big brother and two sisters and their Mum and Dad growing up on a terraced house in Wolverhampton in the 1980s. It’s a story about the stories that still aren’t told enough: about mental illness, about community and about finding yourself. All set against a soundtrack of George Michael. It's a glorious and multi award-winning memoir of love, secrets and lies in Wolverhampton - he's the same age as me and it is one of the The Boy With the Top Knot is the true story of a boy called Sathnam and his big brother and two sisters and their Mum and Dad growing up on a terraced house in Wolverhampton in the 1980s. It’s a story about the stories that still aren’t told enough: about mental illness, about community and about finding yourself. All set against a soundtrack of George Michael. It's a glorious and multi award-winning memoir of love, secrets and lies in Wolverhampton - he's the same age as me and it is one of the texts that helped me give myself permisison to write Maggie & Me. The TV adaptation is very wroth a watch though, necessarily, different from the book. I am excited to read EmpireLand. I interviewed Sathnam on my bokos tv show the Big Scottish Book Club and yuo can find it on BBC iPlayer. Happy reading!

  14. 4 out of 5

    Amy

    I loved this book. Read after listening to an interview with the author on BBC4 Book Club, and watching the movie version on Netflix.

  15. 5 out of 5

    Lindsay

    This book was next up for my World Book Night reading challenge and if I'm being perfectly honest it was one of a couple I was least looking forward too. I mean, a young Sikh boy growing up in eighties Wolverhampton, how was this going to interest me but I couldn't have been more wrong I thoroughly enjoyed it. Another case of never judge a book by its cover! In a nutshell the story is about a man who wants to tell his mother that he wants to live his own life and marry who he chooses and loves an This book was next up for my World Book Night reading challenge and if I'm being perfectly honest it was one of a couple I was least looking forward too. I mean, a young Sikh boy growing up in eighties Wolverhampton, how was this going to interest me but I couldn't have been more wrong I thoroughly enjoyed it. Another case of never judge a book by its cover! In a nutshell the story is about a man who wants to tell his mother that he wants to live his own life and marry who he chooses and loves and not someone that is expected or arranged but he just can't find the right words so he wants to put it all in a letter to his mother which will then be translated for her. He starts to write the letter and whilst he's dealing with his own emotions he delves into his family's history and parents marriage. This is a real insight into Indian culture and the Sikh religion in an everyday context and its integration (or not) into a modern day England. His father and elder sister both struggled with mental health issues that were not very well diagnosed (eventually as Schizophrenia) and there seemed to be a lack of support from any health care agencies. The following investigations that Sathnam carried out int0 his father's illnesses history was just incredible that people could be so unhelpful! I loved the eighties references, they reminded me of my own childhood and growing up like the tape to tape recording and DJs talking over the music, the fashion and the George Michael posters. Wolverhampton is relatively local to me, only being about 12 miles away, so I know a lot of the places mentioned and so could quite vividly picture them. This is a really witty memoir with all the chapters having appropriate song titles; I particularly liked chapter 11 - You Got It (The Right Stuff) as I was a massive fan of New Kids on the Block! There are some very funny scenes but also quite humbling and very often sad. There's a particualar paragraph on Sathnam's interpretation of what it would mean to be illiterate which almost had me in tears; what it means to not be able to read; what his parents were missing out on and things you don't necessarily think of but must have and obviously did affect their standard of living. "...not being able to work out the best-before date on groceries, ...not daring to travel anywhere you haven't travelled before, in case you get lost, ...staring into the distance in waiting rooms because there is nothing else to do, sending your son a 'for my husband' birthday card because the newsagent misunderstands your request, ...not being able to read what your son writes in a newspaper" Overall, a very interesting and enjoyable read that surprised me!

  16. 4 out of 5

    El

    A mixed bag of a book. This had the potential to be excellent but didn't come up to the mark because of the author's self-idulgent writing; way too much about him and his middle-class aspirations and not enough analysis of the interesting situations he also covers. I'd not heard of Sanghera and must admit to being quite surprised that he is a journalist as the style and set-up of this work don't reflect this. I found it muddled and varied in tone as if this was several different works badly put A mixed bag of a book. This had the potential to be excellent but didn't come up to the mark because of the author's self-idulgent writing; way too much about him and his middle-class aspirations and not enough analysis of the interesting situations he also covers. I'd not heard of Sanghera and must admit to being quite surprised that he is a journalist as the style and set-up of this work don't reflect this. I found it muddled and varied in tone as if this was several different works badly put together. The sections on the (secret) mental health issues of his father and sister were fascinating as was the description of his relationship with his mother but his often ineffectual research and interviewing techniques (for a journalist) mean that we don't get the full picture. On the plus side I learned a great deal about the Punjabi community in Wolverhampton - though I struggled to accept that his mother understood no English, at all. Wouldn't he or his siblings have tried to teach her the rudiments?

  17. 5 out of 5

    Le

    My review comes 2 years too late but here we go anyways. I was apparently discussing this title with a friend and slammed her recommendation (we are both Sikhs and non practicing). 6/12 months later bump into some random well-to-do couple whilst on holiday in Kerala. On learning I was both Indian and of Sikh heritage, again I was told I must read it by the Lady. Again I advise I could have written the book, Im not a writer clearly but I could not fathom why anyone would want to read a book that m My review comes 2 years too late but here we go anyways. I was apparently discussing this title with a friend and slammed her recommendation (we are both Sikhs and non practicing). 6/12 months later bump into some random well-to-do couple whilst on holiday in Kerala. On learning I was both Indian and of Sikh heritage, again I was told I must read it by the Lady. Again I advise I could have written the book, Im not a writer clearly but I could not fathom why anyone would want to read a book that mirrors your own life? The book became one of my Xmas gifts, so I started to read on Xmas day. I cried that day and a few times thereafter. I had to dig deep and apologise to my friend; shamelessly. If you are Indian &/OR Sikh - do read. Perhaps relevant to many immigrant families from all over the world that have come to the UK. Ever grown up and experienced mental health issues in your family :definitely read!

  18. 4 out of 5

    Emily

    I found The Boy with the Topknot engrossing as a depiction of a family and an individual's experience of growing up in a Punjabi community in Wolverhampton in the 1980s. It left me thinking about how important talking openly is, but also how everybody has to process events or thoughts in their own way and their own time. I learnt a lot about schizophrenia (mainly how little I knew about it). The author could grate at times, but I didn't mind this - he was self-aware, and his foibles made his sto I found The Boy with the Topknot engrossing as a depiction of a family and an individual's experience of growing up in a Punjabi community in Wolverhampton in the 1980s. It left me thinking about how important talking openly is, but also how everybody has to process events or thoughts in their own way and their own time. I learnt a lot about schizophrenia (mainly how little I knew about it). The author could grate at times, but I didn't mind this - he was self-aware, and his foibles made his story more authentic. He did seem to idealise the middle class British culture he had moved into sometimes, for example anticipating his love life turning out like a romantic comedy (good luck with that!) But I was moved by the way he writes about his parents, and the process of uncovering their history.

  19. 5 out of 5

    Tom

    Superb. A revealing and inspiring insight into how unconditional love can dismantle otherwise insurmountable barriers of culture, religion, language, mental illness and poverty. The wit, honesty and courage with which Sathnam approaches the intensely complex and personal themes of this book make it extraordinarily involving and rewarding to read. The conclusion is wonderful and defies any attempt to label this book as a 'misery memoir'; it is anything but. Highly recommended. Superb. A revealing and inspiring insight into how unconditional love can dismantle otherwise insurmountable barriers of culture, religion, language, mental illness and poverty. The wit, honesty and courage with which Sathnam approaches the intensely complex and personal themes of this book make it extraordinarily involving and rewarding to read. The conclusion is wonderful and defies any attempt to label this book as a 'misery memoir'; it is anything but. Highly recommended.

  20. 5 out of 5

    Karen

    An interesting (at times) insight into the life of the 1960s Indian immigrants into Britain. However, the two star rating is mainly because I couldn't warm to the authors character An interesting (at times) insight into the life of the 1960s Indian immigrants into Britain. However, the two star rating is mainly because I couldn't warm to the authors character

  21. 4 out of 5

    Nancy

    "Know where you come from...but don't let it stop you from becoming who you want to be..." So many reviewers have provided a synopsis therefore I will refrain from doing the same. I will just share some thoughts. Sathnam laid taboo subjects on the table with an eloquence donned through years of a first-rate education funded by the same culture his loving mother and so many like her shunned; it was an irony not lost on him. Well, I suppose those many pounds in tax were well spent if he continues t "Know where you come from...but don't let it stop you from becoming who you want to be..." So many reviewers have provided a synopsis therefore I will refrain from doing the same. I will just share some thoughts. Sathnam laid taboo subjects on the table with an eloquence donned through years of a first-rate education funded by the same culture his loving mother and so many like her shunned; it was an irony not lost on him. Well, I suppose those many pounds in tax were well spent if he continues to use his gifts to lift the curtain between Asian village and Western thinking. Minority communities will do well to bridge that chasm and redirect energies finding happiness in an integrated best-of-both cultures rather than spinning yarns, fear mongering about witchcraft, and gossiping on who was seen snogging whom. To start this effort, this book, and books like it need to be in Punjabi and neighboring languages to keep the those languages relevant. In revealing the dichotomies between his father’s love and rage, Sathnam dilutes the shame for all suffering from mental illness, first or second hand. Ultimately, he impressively renders his father a tender and appreciative person despite tendencies towards manic abuse. The compassionate relationship he held with his sibling Puli, gave depth to what otherwise reads mostly as a love and appreciation memoir to his mum. Puli's surprise additions, her intentional input to the book were as rich and pregnant with emotion as any. Yes, Puliji, you were heard. I hope you say more...in your way. In the footnotes, he touched on the impossible lives of subjugated daughter. "Sikh girls don't have personalities, they have post-traumatic stress disorder." Indeed, they must. His mum is really the star in this piece. His mother’s unbelievable tenacity and dedication to making a happy family would overwhelm any reader and Sathnam does remarkable work of explaining why marriage is the framework of society and how these bonds ultimately save those who would otherwise be lost and hopeless. Certainly only someone from within the community will be able to crush adherence to centuries old traditions of dodgy value such as not marrying within the village by dissecting custom from the original intent (presumably mixing bloodlines). And only someone from within can refocus the community on Guru Granth Sahib's founding principals of inclusion and acceptance from wildly dissimilar traditions. Sathnam shared insights from thinking across cultures, such as translation issues with his mother tongue (pyar vs. love, but not that kind of love, friend/girlfriend, white girl/gori vs. girl who happens to have been born white). His mum mentioned to him, her neighbor’s son must have a (g)friend, because he is thirty. But it wasn’t a question, was it? When she finally told him after the letter cleared the air that it HAD BEEN a question, the poor Brit coconut must have been thinking, “Um, mum, that wasn’t a question. That wasn't even a rhetorical question. It was in fact, rumour-mongering, which I don’t do. If you want to know if I have a (g)friend, you must respect me enough to pose a proper question, not imply I should burdened with bringing up a difficult subject...which BTW you don’t want me to do”. Well, if that isn't insight to a challenge of mindsets and expectations, I don’t know what is. By disclosing such intimate details of his personal challenges with assimilation, he provides a topic of debate, associated lessons and heartfelt realities with which today’s traditional families easily identify. He has shared a voice, a dialog, a language, not of one culture but of two, and isn't two better? A decade from now, mixed families will wonder what the fuss was all about. In terms of style, the pacing, his anxieties, rollbacks in time, anticipating the letter and surprise discovery of pills were masterfully woven into the story, so as I did not feel manipulated by the foreboding. He made it fun. Unlike other reviewers, I did not find it self-centered or supercilious. Sathnam had to go from a being a boy to being a man, and he does it by asserting himself in a letter to his typical controlling and protective mum. He finally became respectABLE to others and most importantly, found SELF respect in the challenge of not achieving manhood through the production of a legitimate male heir with a suitable wife...but by just going a different way than mama/papa. In terms of his stressing his roots, Sathnam told it like it was, and it seemed that the atmosphere was very Coal Miner's Daughter ("we were poor but we had love"). The reality is that there is a great chasm between Birmingham, indeed, Wolverhampton and London, facts are facts, he humbly asserts he was quite lucky. I much enjoyed the sense of discussion I felt in this memoir, like Sathnam was engaging in self-disclosure with a trusted confidant over a latte (ok, many lattes at a Wolver Starbucks with some Asian goths tucked in the corner). He didn't shy away from his ignorance of others' feelings, he didn't imply he hadn't hurt anyone. I think other reviewers appreciated this too as so many of them state they couldn't put the book down. Tipping my hat to his skill as a writer, I could. Several times. When I was angry with him for denying the women who loved him, who, in his words respected his culture and appreciated his dedication to his family. As she lay sleeping, he denied "Laura" to his interfering auntie thus transporting her from his beloved to a shameful reminder of his cowardice. Reduced to a cliche, he should have just left her flat before the sun rose. He could not yet give up the role as robotic 20-something "good son" in favour of empowerment, self-direction. Years later upon delivering his letter of self-determination, it becomes clear he had underestimated his mother's ability to adjust. Didn't he see mum's pliability when he cut off his plait? In some respects, his mother really only sought his happiness and she needed to understand his happiness would be at a cost to her perception of "suitable". (One has to wonder if mum's flexibility wasn't effected by her 3 other children being suitably married with suitably brown grand babies...not really fair but a point to ponder). Sathnam's remorse was only touched on later in his heart-wrenching letter to his mother, but just a touch. There were so many other important issues covered but what was sincerely missing was a return to the "Lauras" to provide a nod or some appreciation for their love and support in his journey to manhood. It started as a book about Sathnam, became a book about his mum's love, then needed to return to Sathnam. He could have included the "Lauras" in the dedication, or the acknowledgements. Though there may be a private reasons for this, publicly, it felt lacking, no closure. I do hope his mother finally felt free to reach out the "Lauras" and wish them well, now THAT would be something, THAT would be mutual respect. If a person has not been touched by mental illness, emotional paralysis, emotional blackmail (tamasha), immigration/emigration PTSD, or even the double-edged sword of a close-knit family, you will find Sanghera still will enable you to relate. I recognized all the pop music notations because, well, DJ's the man we love the most. The integrated musical timeline lent a real accessibility to the whole story for those who enjoyed 80s pop, you'll catch every reference. Mick Hucknall and the Korgis positioned the reader to NOT expect a cell phone to ring. If, through the use of descriptive phrases and a relevant playlist, Sathnam can place me in his crowded semi-detached, cockroach infested, spice infused home on a living room settee, I am happy to be there, listening to mum’s ailments while munching parathas, I’ll bring the penguin bars.

  22. 5 out of 5

    Vishal Choradiya

    Sathnam Sanghera’s “The Boy with the Topknot” is an affectionate, tender memoir of the youngest second-generation member of an immigrant Punjabi household in England. It narrates the author’s discovery of painful family secrets kept from him through childhood, in particular a dark history of mental illness, and his adult journey of recognition and guilt as he reconciles with their full import. It is also in many ways a story of navigating the complexities of cultural and class differences in the Sathnam Sanghera’s “The Boy with the Topknot” is an affectionate, tender memoir of the youngest second-generation member of an immigrant Punjabi household in England. It narrates the author’s discovery of painful family secrets kept from him through childhood, in particular a dark history of mental illness, and his adult journey of recognition and guilt as he reconciles with their full import. It is also in many ways a story of navigating the complexities of cultural and class differences in the backdrop of racial tensions in the 1970s and ‘80s. Sanghera uses his position as a critical insider to observe less endearing aspects of Punjabi-Jat culture, such as violent family feuds, rampant alcoholism, and a rigid code of honour based on caste identity. Likewise, as a subsequent Londoner, he charts the evolution of Wolverhampton from an industrial “Black Country” town to a city with a tourist information centre and a Starbucks outlet. But at its heart, the book is a paean of ache and love for his heroic, uneducated mother who overcomes insurmountable odds to provide for and raise her four children in a foreign land. In the writing, Sanghera faces the challenge of documenting stories recounted mostly by people steeped in an oral culture—corroborating details is near impossible and large sections find him railing about the process. The narrative’s shifting timelines, though held together for the most part, sometimes seem unwieldy; and the many lists and repetition of ideas in the early chapters can be off-putting. One also senses the author often trying too hard to be funny or needlessly demonstrating his affluent lifestyle. But more disconcerting are instances of casual sexism around emotional vulnerability and long hair, and lazy stereotyping about the west and the east. Nevertheless, he writes truthfully about his own snobbery, and does not shy away from embarrassing details of his youth and why he distanced himself from his family. Some parts, such as his sister’s deteriorating condition, and a letter to a court manager who may not exist, are truly moving. In all, an inconsistent yet illuminating account of personal growth through honesty and acceptance.

  23. 4 out of 5

    Naciye

    This book triggered many memories for me. Although I’m from another culture and religion altogether, being a second generation immigrant child growing up in the U.K. I identified with so much of what he shared. The pressures he experienced growing up here, torn between two cultures and how this affected all his relationships as he struggled to be his own person and please his mum, are struggles many of us have experienced. We all have that one relative that was always angry, who we called ‘mad’ This book triggered many memories for me. Although I’m from another culture and religion altogether, being a second generation immigrant child growing up in the U.K. I identified with so much of what he shared. The pressures he experienced growing up here, torn between two cultures and how this affected all his relationships as he struggled to be his own person and please his mum, are struggles many of us have experienced. We all have that one relative that was always angry, who we called ‘mad’ or possessed by the devil, who we made excuses for their outbursts, violence and odd behaviour. Reading about his dad and sister, has highlighted the ignorance surrounding mental health in immigrant communities, not to mention the taboo factor, back in the early days. It must have taken a lot of courage to not only write this book, but to write the letter to his mum. I really enjoyed reading this book, and I would have finished it much sooner, but I didn’t want it to finish. For me this book also highlights the importance of our original culture and the struggles parents, especially first generation immigrant parents faced in a new country. My parents experienced similar struggles and suddenly I can see life from their point of view, and can understand why they were so strict. One of the best books I’ve read in a long time.

  24. 4 out of 5

    Elisabeth Bibbings

    The author calls it a "Misery Memoir" but it's too funny for that. Sathnam grew up in the Black Country, among the Sikh community. His mother was devout, and he portrays her as the archetypal Asian Bollywood kind of mum. However, she has suffered terribly, a story which unfolds as the history of his family's mental health begins to emerge. Suddenly, his story doesn't seem so funny any more. I learnt a lot from this book, particularly I was impressed as Sathnam is a literate and erudite journalist, The author calls it a "Misery Memoir" but it's too funny for that. Sathnam grew up in the Black Country, among the Sikh community. His mother was devout, and he portrays her as the archetypal Asian Bollywood kind of mum. However, she has suffered terribly, a story which unfolds as the history of his family's mental health begins to emerge. Suddenly, his story doesn't seem so funny any more. I learnt a lot from this book, particularly I was impressed as Sathnam is a literate and erudite journalist, yet neither of his parents speak or write much English, and he impresses on the reader the need for immigrants to the UK to learn the language - they miss out on so much if they don't/can't. I learned about the clash of cultures, how there are so many people living in 21st-century Britain but still with the values of farmers in the 1950's Punjab (Sathnam's words, not mine). I learnt about the difficulties their children face as they try to make a life in cosmopolitan cities among other cultures. The story ends with Sathnam trying to explain to his mother why an arranged marriage to the right girl from the right caste is not where he wants to be. A fascinating memoir, you will laugh, cry and at the end, understand a lot more.

  25. 5 out of 5

    Martine

    What an intensely moving story! As an immigrant myself and someone who has experienced the impact of mental illness on family members, I can directly relate to some of the themes and vignettes in Sathnam’s story. What makes it especially interesting for me though is the peek behind the curtain of the Sikh community in this country. These are people I see every day on the streets or on public transport, perhaps exchange some words with in shops and have worked alongside, but I knew nothing at all What an intensely moving story! As an immigrant myself and someone who has experienced the impact of mental illness on family members, I can directly relate to some of the themes and vignettes in Sathnam’s story. What makes it especially interesting for me though is the peek behind the curtain of the Sikh community in this country. These are people I see every day on the streets or on public transport, perhaps exchange some words with in shops and have worked alongside, but I knew nothing at all about them really. I was particularly struck by Sathnam’s ability to show us that is vulnerability is not his weakness, but his strength. He talks about his fears, his inertia, his escapism, his procrastrination and his pain, in a very brave way. It is what makes him believable, human, and real and I certainly felt it, as I turned the pages of this story. One of the move moving memoirs I have read.

  26. 5 out of 5

    Florine

    Funny and heartbreaking. In order to tell his mom how he feels about the marriage rules she insists on, the author tries to find more about his family history. And there is a lot to be found. He find out about the dramatic start of his parents' marriage, the violence, the lack of/mis-diagnose of his dad's schizophrenia. He also tells us about growing up different (with a topknot, not a spoiler...) in the 80s, and how he felt about it. The immigration part was quite relatable to me. I really found Funny and heartbreaking. In order to tell his mom how he feels about the marriage rules she insists on, the author tries to find more about his family history. And there is a lot to be found. He find out about the dramatic start of his parents' marriage, the violence, the lack of/mis-diagnose of his dad's schizophrenia. He also tells us about growing up different (with a topknot, not a spoiler...) in the 80s, and how he felt about it. The immigration part was quite relatable to me. I really found heartbreaking to see how his parents don't speak English, and are completely cut from the world, including when it comes to health, safety, etc. (I found it interesting when Sanghera mentioned his double personality, with his two languages.) The big story though is the dad's mental illness and how it affected his mom primarily, and the rest of the family dynamics. Shout out to the amazing mom, the end of the book really brings it home.

  27. 5 out of 5

    Sarah Parker

    This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here. This is a beautifully written book about a very difficult subject. How many of us could sit and write about discovering that not one but two members of our family have a devastating mental illness? I’m not sure I could! What Sathnam Sanghera shows throughout this book is a world that is full of contradictions and conflicts. For instance, the conflict between the Sikh upbringing that his mother is keen to bestow on him and the British influences that slip through the cracks. The conflicts between This is a beautifully written book about a very difficult subject. How many of us could sit and write about discovering that not one but two members of our family have a devastating mental illness? I’m not sure I could! What Sathnam Sanghera shows throughout this book is a world that is full of contradictions and conflicts. For instance, the conflict between the Sikh upbringing that his mother is keen to bestow on him and the British influences that slip through the cracks. The conflicts between the family members and the internal worries and conflicts that Sathnam carries within himself. I’ve seen a few people say that they can’t connect to Sathnam’s “character” but he isn’t creating a character. He’s bearing himself on the pages for us to dissect, and for that he deserves our praise.

  28. 5 out of 5

    Sue

    This is an unusual and touching memoir about Sathnam growing up a Sikh in Wolverhampton, and his journey via Cambridge, to life as a journalist in London. There is however, an added dimension - Sathnam finds out in his 20s that his father and eldest sister have schizophrenia, which cause him to go back over his childhood years and question some of the behaviours he thought of as "normal" when he was a boy and to find out all he can about the history of his family....and to attempt to break free This is an unusual and touching memoir about Sathnam growing up a Sikh in Wolverhampton, and his journey via Cambridge, to life as a journalist in London. There is however, an added dimension - Sathnam finds out in his 20s that his father and eldest sister have schizophrenia, which cause him to go back over his childhood years and question some of the behaviours he thought of as "normal" when he was a boy and to find out all he can about the history of his family....and to attempt to break free from his family's ideals. This ends up being a touching and beautifully written tribute to his mother really, as he learns how she kept the family together under very difficult circumstances, along side the story of the impact of mental illness and cultural differences. The subject matter sounds heavy, but this is told with love and humour and is very readable. Highly recommended.

  29. 5 out of 5

    Lucy

    Sanghera's book is much more than it appears on the surface. It is about much more than his topknot! Sanghera does a fantastic job of exploring the intersectionality of different aspects of his identity (race, religion, gender, sexuality) and how these play out in discursive acts throughout his life. Sanghera comical prose prompts deeper questions and exploration of identity for the reader too. Sanghera also explores mental health and how this can hinge the identity of patients and their familie Sanghera's book is much more than it appears on the surface. It is about much more than his topknot! Sanghera does a fantastic job of exploring the intersectionality of different aspects of his identity (race, religion, gender, sexuality) and how these play out in discursive acts throughout his life. Sanghera comical prose prompts deeper questions and exploration of identity for the reader too. Sanghera also explores mental health and how this can hinge the identity of patients and their families. A great insight to dispell fears and misconceptions around mental health. As someone living in the mighty Black County, it was also fascinating to hear about Wolverhampton in another era and sometimes the stereotypical perceptions of Wolverhampton really are true!

  30. 4 out of 5

    Zoe Radley

    A book that makes you smile.... makes you laugh out loud and also makes you cry with empathy and anger on behalf of the author and his family. It also makes you think of your own family their quirks, strengths and weaknesses. What you live about them what you find irritating and in a strange way you find that people from different cultures and religions are not so different to you. Though some ideas are not strictly what we would find ok but the idea that parents want the best for you and want y A book that makes you smile.... makes you laugh out loud and also makes you cry with empathy and anger on behalf of the author and his family. It also makes you think of your own family their quirks, strengths and weaknesses. What you live about them what you find irritating and in a strange way you find that people from different cultures and religions are not so different to you. Though some ideas are not strictly what we would find ok but the idea that parents want the best for you and want you to be happy and succeed is true throughout the world wherever we are. A fabulous book

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