Indian origin journalist’s book nominated for British literature prize

November 19th, 2008 - 11:22 am ICT by IANS  

London, Nov 19 (IANS) The Times journalist Sathnam Sanghera is the latest British-Asian to blaze a literary trail as his book on the travails of his Sikh immigrant family has been short listed for the biography prize at the British Costa Book Awards for 2008.The book began as a letter to his mother explaining why he was not ready for an arranged marriage. Sanghera started looking for possible objections from his parents to his decision and that led him to forage his family history from when his parents came to Britain from rural Punjab in India.

Sanghera said: “‘If You Don’t Know Me By Now: A Memoir of Love, Secrets and Lies in Wolverhampton’ is not a book on misery, but funny.” He hasn’t yet told his mother about his nomination, reports The Times.

“My mum can’t read English but she knows what’s in the book and she’s chuffed. It’s her story and she wanted it told. She doesn’t know about the nomination yet though - some things are really hard to explain in Punjabi,” he said.

A description of the book on Sanghera’s website reads: “When Sathnam Sanghera was 24 years old, he made a discovery about his family that would both darken and illuminate his life.

“It would set him on a journey into his family’s past: from his father’s harsh life in rural Punjab to the terrifying early years of his parents’ marriage in England; from his mother’s extraordinary resilience as she brought up her young family in a foreign land, without any knowledge of its language, to the author’s happy memories of his own childhood - his obsessions with George Michael and a desire to have the perfect top knot.

“And, most affectingly of all, this discovery would finally force Sanghera’s own secret life into the glaring light: his longing for romantic love which he had, for fear of family rejection, kept utterly hidden from his beloved mother.”

Sanghera was born in England in 1976 and joined The Financial Times in 1998 after graduating from Cambridge. He joined The Times in 2007.

Sanghera’s book is one of the four in contention for the award. His rivals are also journalists: Judith Mackrell for her biography of the ballerina Lydia Lopokova, Jackie Wullschlager for her book on the artist Marc Chagall, and Diana Athill - a former publisher who worked for the BBC during World War II - for her fifth volume of the memoir “Somewhere Towards the End”.

Judges who short listed Sanghera’s book said: “Quietly witty, engrossing and tragicomic - this insight into parallel culture in Britain today is the poignant story of an exceptional family that everyone should read.”

The Costa Book Awards are considered a prestigious literary prize in Britain. They fall in five categories: first novel, novel, poetry, biography and children’s books.

The prize was established in 1971 as Whitbread Book Awards to recognise the “most enjoyable” books by writers based in Britain and Ireland. Since 2006 they are known after their current owners, Costa Coffee.

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