The Go-Between : A Portrait of Growing Up Between Different Worlds

Author:

Osman Yousefzada

Title:

The Go-Between : A Portrait of Growing Up Between Different Worlds

Publisher:

Canongate

Nataka Books Reviews: 

The Go-Between : A Portrait of Growing Up Between Different Worlds

This book provides a moving and honest potrait of an ordinary Pashtun-heritage family in 1980s and 1990s Birmingham. 


The drama is laid bare. The clash between family life at home and wider  society on the streets immediately provides a constant pull and push. "We are here because they were there." Since time immemorial, the only constant in the world seems to be the movement of people, from one place, for one reason or another with new stories reborn. This book illustrates this perfectly.


This book is great tribute to immigrant peoples in the UK and the unique stories that are now being published. Osman did find his "own keys to the outside world" and gives us a moving  and sharp memoir filled with humour and generosity.


-- Nataka Books

Nataka Books Full Review: 

The Go-Between : A Portrait of Growing Up Between Different Worlds

This book provides a moving and honest potrait of an ordinary family in 1980s and 1990s Birmingham. Being of Pashtun heritage, Osman collects memories of growing up at home, at school, the neighbourhood politics, the loving but deeply conservative and patriacal society, the joys and tensions in the extended family in the UK and Afganistan, with all of the intergenerational emotions contrasted with the need by the second generation of to fit into a new environment, a new world.  A brillliant and at times funny account.


What was enjoyable about this book was the breadth of coverage of events in the memoir. From living on the same street with musical group that embraced Jamaican reggae and refashioned it in its brand, otherwise known as UB40; to living with various communities arriving in the Britain and choosing Balsall Heath's affordable rents to make a home. The tensions pulling communities apart are laid bare whilst that the same communities had in common draws the same groups together. Whilst the book focuses on the individual and specific details, it leaves a clear historical record. This is an absorbing potrayal which keeps readers engaged by the narrative style. 


What would appear as mundane elsewhere, like the receipt of mail from the postman or postwoman, is filled with inherited history. People lifted and entrapped by tradition, patriarchy, sensorship and the myriad clashes of culture come to the fore in that simple delivery act. We enjoy books that inform or teach through storytelling rather than excessive description and this books excels at telling the story.


Where required, a historical background is offered. The Pashtun society, with the deeply conservative Pashtunwali code is traced to early millenia.  "The Pashtun trace their lineane back to the ten lost tribes of Israel. Our folklore has it that King Saul had five sons, not four as some historians claim. The fifth was names Jeremiah, who had a son named Afghana. He was ophaned at a young age and brought up by King David." 


Historical fiction sits well with us, as does personal history rather than the grand narratives. Personal accounts, in their variety and uniqueness offer much more ! Osman delivers on both counts.


The author, Osman Yousefzada, tackles head-on the division, racism and unemployment of the period. No events occuring at the time are sanitised and the author's protrayal adds to the record. The inclusion of key global events, Martin Luther King on the 3rd of April 1968, Thatcher's rise and others place the memoir in context. This works very well in the book to guide the reader through both personal and global history.


The clash between family life at home and wider  society on the streets immediately provides a constant pull and push. "We are here because they were there." Since time immemorial, the only constant in the world seems to be the movement of people, from one place, for one reason with new stories reborn. The 'Go-Between' illustrates this perfectly.


Osman lived through some difficult challenges which are recounted with honesty but never lets these define him. Growing up at home, Osman gives a hillarious account of new traditions including "mince pies, porn mags and daytime discos." Further escapades follow at what he renamed "London University" because he did not like the sound of the school name 'SOAS'.  This book is great tribute to immigrant peoples and the unique stories that are now finding their way into print. Osman did find his "own keys to the outside world". 


-- Nataka Books