Where are you from?
Start the Week: Kenan Malik, Francesca Sobande and Don Paterson discuss upbringing and identity politics with Tom Sutcliffe.

Kenan titled his book  Not so Black and White  but I’d like you to know that Not so Black and White is the title of a novel written by me (who is white) and Kenyan born Nancy Mudenyo Hunt the daughter of a  LUO tribal chief and winner of the Nat West Most Inspirational woman award.  Kenan wasn’t aware of our book but it would be good if more were aware because of the unique way it tackles difficult and urgent problems. Our target readership is 14-25. The well-travelled and courageous Rev Dr Charlotte Bannister Parker was the last journalist out of besieged Bihac says,

‘Not so Black and White’ looks at the cross-cultural life of an inspiring young woman Precious, caught between two worlds of the UK and Kenya. The authors manage to weave these worlds together in a proactive way that challenges the reader to take a fresh look at critical issues that are of huge importance in our world today. From gang violence and racial tension in London to arranged marriages, girl child education, and tribal expectations in Kenya. An uplifting and captivating read.’

From experience, I know the need for a less black and white approach to problems.  As a freelance writer for The Oxford Times, I reviewed the shows of the Chinese artist Qu Leilei and discovered an important untold story, that of the not acknowledged Beijing Spring (1979). I spent 3 years researching it and interviewing Leilei and others in great depth, visiting the sites etc. It has been endorsed by China experts including John Gittings who the Guardian chief foreign correspondent but that didn’t prevent it not being sold on to a bigger publisher because of accusations of ‘Cultural Appropriation.

‘Brushstrokes in Time  emerged into a strange world in which a one-party state imprisons dissidents and a ‘progressive’ West denies my ‘write‘ to walk in their shoes.

As a woman, I’d experienced exclusion from business networking and Atam’s career was stymied by racism. But discrimination related to being white English, this was an original experience! For a new book search engine called Shepherd.com, I recommended, The Lies That Bind: Rethinking Identity by Kwame Anthony Appiah. Kwame’s paternal grandfather was an Ashanti chief and his maternal grandfather was a British Chancellor of the Exchequer—who better to explore the issue of identity? This book is an antidote to nativism. Kwame says, ‘All cultural practices and objects are mobile,’ and ‘ownership is the wrong model.’ Ideas have always spread from East to West and West to East and our cultures are richer for it.’

Because of my marriage to Indian born geneticist Atam Vetta, I know that racism is not only white although, because of power dynamics, the white racism was the most damaging. That doesn’t mean that we shouldn’t approach issues from a more  human perspective rather than putting each of us in a box sealing the lid and labelling it.