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46

E

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A

MERICA

inauthentic representation of street boys are just as controversial as

the authenticity of desi, or more generally South Asian identity,

portrayed in the novel.

3

Some reviewers, for example, misread

Londonstani

as belonging to the black urban novels set in inner city

estates, or the ghettos, and as being about the violence of street

boys and gangs, or at least expect the novel to be of such a

character because of the author’s ethnic minority identity.

4

In

some initial critical reviews, as pointed out in James Graham’s

interview, Malkani is criticized for not providing the street boys

with an authentic voice, and for having little understanding of the

ghetto, inasmuch as the novelist himself is Cambridge-educated

and the Creative Business editor of the

Financial Times

(Graham,

2008a). In a sense, this kind of criticism implies an association of

the clustering of immigrants with the ghetto, violence, and poverty;

it may also, to some extent, strengthen the popular, yet rather

misleading, view that “it is indeed the very presence of people from

many different backgrounds that somehow poses a threat to social

stability and solidarity” (Cantle, 2012: 53). In response to such

criticism, Malkani first argues that “[t]he authenticity hurdle that

reviewers have required me to jump implies Thomas Harris should

have been disqualified from writing ‘Silence of the Lambs’ because

he’s not an authentic cannibal or serial killer” (Graham, 2008a).

Secondly, “[i]t also implies that there’s a single authentic British

Asian experience and that authentic experience can’t be shared”

(

2008a

). Most importantly, and also paradoxically, Malkani argues

3

For a sampling of criticisms, see Manzoor (2006) as well as Malkani’s interview

with James Graham, especially Malkani’s answers to the interviewer’s questions 4

and 7.

4

One of the most well-known ghetto novels is the crime story

Yardie

(1992) by the

Jamaican British writer Victor Headley. Following Headley’s success, there are a

number of writers who, when writing about London, write with a perspective that

Andy Wood has called “a ghetto perspective” (2002: 18). The examples include

Courttia Newland’s

The Scholar

(1997) and

Society Within

(1999), both of which

are set on the fictitious inner city housing estate of Greenside in West London and

depict Afro-Caribbean immigrants’ poverty, segregation, and lower-class life.