If You Don't Know Me by Now: A Memoir of Love, Secrets and Lies in Wolverhampton

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Viking, 2008 - Biography & Autobiography - 323 pages
2 Reviews
'Mum Is Never More Anxious Than At A Celebration, Hovering Around Us With Red Chillies To Frighten Away Evil Spirits. I Hate That I'Ve Inherited This Attitude: Sometimes I Can Feel The End Of Good Things Before I'Ve Even Had A Chance To Enjoy Them. But Finally I Understand Why My Mother Was So Fond Of The Phrase: That'S How Life Was For Her. For Years, For Every One Shot Of Happy, There Would Be Two Shots Of Sad.'
When Sathnam Sanghera Was Twenty-Four 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.
From Hindu Hairdressers To The Wolverhampton Tourist Office, From Terrifying Violence To Boundless Family Loyalty, If You Don'T Know Me By Now Is A Heart-Rending Account Of One Family'S Unimaginable Suffering And Also Its Great Capacity For Love. In A Voice That Is By Turns Tender And Wonderfully Funny, Sathnam Sanghera Tells A Story Of The Seemingly Unbridgeable, And Often Harrowing, Gulf Between Classes, Cultures And Generations And Also Provides A Moving Testament To The Surprising Power Of Unconditional Love.

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This is one of the most engrossing and disturbing books I have ever read. It connects with the generation of Indians born in the 70's at so many levels. Regardless of whether they were born in India or abroad, it is a strange reminder of how different are this generation's life, values, and behavior from that of their parents'.
Compound that with having a mentally ill parent and also a mentally ill sister, and how as a child you tend to block out all the discomforting things, only to be left with dots that you connect together when you grow older.
The plot device used by the author is one in which he finally decides that he can no longer pretend to be living the life his mother thinks he is living, and decides to write a letter to her explaining his value system and how in a weird manner it ties into her value system. The only catch is that he can only write in English and his mother can only read in Punjabi.
Through many parts of the book, you might get a lump in your throat that will be hard to swallow. But, by the end of the book, it kind of leaves you feeling satisfied as the book climaxes very well, with the mother reading the translated letter, and duly exclaiming like any typical Indian mother about the amount the author pays to get the letter translated.
 

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