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Sikhism The Boy With The Topknot

Discussion in 'Book Reviews & Editorials' started by Admin Singh, May 25, 2009.

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  1. Admin Singh

    Admin Singh
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    The Boy with the Topknot: A Memoir of Love, Secrets and Lies in Wolverhampton
    By Sathnam Sanghera


    Buy at SPN Store
    (in exclusive association with Amazon.co.uk)

    Product Description

    "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. Published in hardback as If You Don't Know Me by Now...


    Product Details


    • Amazon Sales Rank: #6443 in Books
    • Published on: 2009-04-30
    • Original language: English
    • Binding: Paperback
    • 336 pages

    Editorial Reviews


    Review
    'I absolutely loved it. Heartbreaking and wonderful. He writes beautifully' - Maggie O'Farrell 'Could not be more enjoyable, engaging or moving' Observer 'About real secrets, in a real quest for understanding. It's tragic, funny and disturbing. It will challenge you, and may even change you' - Carole Angier, Independent 'Hilarious, engaging, tragicomic' - Meg Rosoff, Guardian "Gripping and entertaining, horrifying and tender ! Exposes all those things we take for granted as we grow up' - Hardeep Singh Kohli, The Times
    About the Author
    Sathnam Sanghera was born in 1976. He is an award-winning journalist who was previously chief feature writer at The Financial Times and now works for The Times. He lives in London. This is his first book.


    Customer Reviews


    If You Don't Know Me By Now [​IMG]
    Previously published as If You Don't Know Me By Now, this is a reissue of Sathnam Sanghera's moving and droll autobiography. In its previous guise, Sathnam Sanghera's autobiography If You Don't Know Me By Now was shortlisted for the Costa 2008 Biography/Autobiography award. Here it makes an appearance under a different title.

    The book is a warm, affectionate and hilarious account of Sanghera's search in his late twenties and thirties for the history of his family. It was only at this late stage of his life that he found out that both his father and his oldest sister both suffer from schizophrenia, and he only came to this knowledge because of his growing discomfort with the double life he was having to lead, working as a trendy journalist in London, where he dated white women but pretending to his Punjabi parents in Wolverhampton that he was a good Sikh boy willing to contemplate an arranged marriage when the time was right.

    Sanghera's account manages to be both tender and loving and also dryly witty. He is self deprecating about himself to a degree that means every page has its laugh-out loud moments. Here's an example:

    `At school, the swottiness I'd long displayed also intensified...my relentless sucking up meant that over four years, I was made milk monitor, litter monitor, stock room monitor - a prized job for it meant being let off hymn practice - and tuck shop monitor.'

    He is also obviously hugely fond of his family in a way that makes even the harrowing parts of the novel a joy to read. His lightness of touch means that none of the book ever feels mundane, even when dealing with family events that would otherwise mean little to other people. And his journey from being a layman who knew nothing about schizophrenia to coming to terms with its meaning, symptoms, treatment ,prognosis and implications, is refreshingly honest. He owns up to being ignorant about mental illness before his research and is even honest about the feeling of shock he initially felt when waiting in a psychiatric outpatient waiting room, when the patients around him seemed alien and weird rather than fellow humans with histories and personalities. This book is a must not only for anyone who wants to know more about this devastating illness, but for anyone who enjoys humorous, well written memoirs. *****


    Editorial...

    I was absolutely delighted last year when I saw the shelves of a Central London bookshop dominated by a book whose jacket featured the photograph of a delicate-looking nine year old Sikh boy tensely staring out. I can confidently say – this was the first joora to appear on a book jacket! This week that book “The Boy with the Topknot” by Sathnam Sanghera has won the Mind Book of the Year Award

    I am often quick to complain that Sikhs are obsessed with identity issues and should instead focus on our real social and political problems; however blinded by my own delight at seeing a positive image I was perfectly happy to buy the book for the jacket alone. Reading the book though was the real delight – it is a story that promises “love, secrets and lies in Wolverhampton” but it is so much more than that.

    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.

    As a good Indian parent I am paranoid and edgy about my young son and the way he is perceived. I fret endlessly about role-models, positive images and helping him discover his confidence. Sathnam Sanghera cut his hair in his early teens and his chapter on that incident; heartbreaking and hilarious in equal measure is a must-read for every Sikh parent.

    “The Boy with the Topknot” is also an inspiration for a younger generation of Sikhs who are staking out a career in the arts and humanities possibly to the annoyance of parents. Sathnam Sanghera, the Cambridge graduate and now an accomplished newspaper writer, author and award winning columnist for The Times has a story that is an inspiration to a new generation.

    This book however, is not intended to be a manual for neurotic Sikh parents or a guidebook for students or even the luckless and comical story of Sathnam’s search by proxy of a suitable Jat Sikh partner. The heart of his memoir is the sensitively rendered story of his family’s handling of schizophrenia – an illness that has sadly afflicted his father and his eldest sister. Sathnam writes with great skill and bravery about this without ever allowing the narrative to descend into a poor-me story. Instead the genuine hero of the book, his mother, is revealed, often at the expense of the neurotic and nerdy Sathnam.

    This is a beautifully written and important book for Sikhs from a major new talent in the UK from whom I hope we read more.
     

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  3. spnadmin

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    Aman ji

    Thank you for this article. I just bought the book Boy With The Top Knot a few days ago. Cannot wait to start reading it.

    :)
     
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