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Brown: What Being Brown in the World Today Means (to Everyone)
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Brown: What Being Brown in the World Today Means (to Everyone)

4.03  ·  Rating details ·  329 ratings  ·  57 reviews
Finalist for the Governor General’s Literary Award for Non-fiction and the Trillium Book Award

A Globe and Mail, National Post, Toronto Life, Walrus, CBC Books, Chatelaine, Hill Times, 49th Shelf and Writers’ Trust Best Book of the Year

With the urgency and passion of Ta-Nehisi Coates (Between the World and Me), the seductive storytelling of J.D. Vance (Hillbilly Elegy) and
Hardcover, 336 pages
Published May 10th 2016 by HarperCollins Publishers
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Sameer Vasta
Jul 15, 2016 rated it really liked it
What does it mean to have brown skin in the world?

It's a question I've grappled with every single day of my life since I can remember. I grew up undeniably aware of my skin color, extremely aware that, as a child, I was different not just because I was born in another country and my family moved to America with nothing, but because I looked different, too. Many of my close friends growing up—Elizabeth, Leah, Sean, Steven, Rachel—looked nothing like me, and while they never said anything about it
May 22, 2017 rated it really liked it
Shelves: 2017, can-con, nonfiction
In deciding who to write about and who to leave out, I created a simple formula: Has the cultural, national, regional or religious community you come from reached a crisis point in the host country? Is that country, be it in North America, the Caribbean, Asia or Europe, experiencing some kind of moral panic about your presence in their midst? If you answered yes to both questions and you're not European white, African American, aboriginal or East Asian, then congratulations (or is it commiserat
Avneet Athwal
Jul 02, 2016 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: academic
I found this to be a fascinating read, not least because it is about a topic not often explored. The book overall is very well done and accomplishes what it sets out to do. What stood out to me in this area was that Al-Solaylee used scholarship by "brown" authors along with the personal interviews he conducted, and so is able to provide many viewpoints and interpretations of the issues he discusses.

Because the point he is trying to make is so broad, I feel that this book serves as a wonderful i
Mar 24, 2017 added it
I finally finished this book. It was a real eye opener. I think everyone should read this book
Hina Zephyr
Brown tackles some difficult questions as it goes back in history to explain how being a certain skin tone has influenced popular opinion against a collective diaspora of people for centuries. The legacy of colonialism left among its wake racial and colour discrimination which follows people around to this day. In Western societies brown people are either nameless, subjected to doing the work that the locals don't want, or they are at the other end of the spectrum, educated professionals with wh ...more
Kathryn Bagg
Jun 02, 2017 rated it really liked it
The book is well-researched, and I appreciated the author's obvious attempts to avoid bias.

Although the title is Brown, many of the situations are transferable to the First Nations people here in Canada.

As a white immigrant my experience has been very different to that of a visible minority. It also made be realize, even as a liberal thinking Canadian who believes in the idea of multiculturalism, I remain somewhat partisan—there are aspects of some cultures I would prefer not to see practiced
Sasha Gronsdahl
May 23, 2017 rated it it was amazing
Kamal Al-Solaylee is a gifted writer. He's taken on a big topic in this book -- the meaning of brown skin, which has so many different contexts and connotations around the world -- but he skillfully ties many moving stories together into a coherent and thoughtful book.

One aspect of the book that did not sit as well with me was the author's own place in the narrative. It felt like Al-Solaylee couldn't decide how much of himself to bring into the book. He is certainly there, remarking on his expe
Jade Walters
Jul 14, 2016 rated it really liked it
The prose was nothing special; it did its job. The author's personality was likeable without imposing on the material of the book (I can imagine this would be an interesting read after reading his memoir, Intolerable). There were some issues with editing, as I spotted multiple grammatical errors and repeated words throughout the book. Yet despite these things, this book still shines.

It shines in its subject matter. In delving into the lives of subjected peoples, it gives the reader a glimpse in
Jul 19, 2016 rated it liked it
Shelves: 2016
An excellent and thought provoking book about "brown" people all over the world. Al-Solaylee explores the world of Filipina domestic workers, Sri Lankan migrants, and anti Islamic movements in France and Britain. This is a well researched and eye opening book. However, it's a bit dense and there's just so much information in it that it can be little overwhelming at times. ...more
Apr 06, 2016 rated it liked it
Very strong beginning, becomes a bit travelogue-ish.

But I am now thinking about brown in a different and differentiated way. So Al-Solaylee does achieve something important here. Opening a new front in the discussion about race and identity - and how to make things better.
May 30, 2016 rated it really liked it
Shelves: non-fiction
The author's personal journey interviewing people of brown skin in ten countries. He explores their social, political, economic, and personal implications of being a brown- skinned person in these countries. A thought provoking book. ...more
Jun 03, 2016 rated it really liked it
A noble undertaking and a likeable persona. Writing is fluid and appealing, but sometimes in need of an editor (for syntax, and that's NOT the correct way to spell predominantly!). Also, while the research is compelling, the argument is not fully coherent. ...more
Barbara McVeigh
Rather enjoyed this book, especially since I wanted to be challenged to read something new. Recent events highlight that we have become complacent.

As a side bar, the chapter on Trinidad helped one of students with researching the social & cultural aspects of chutney music. Who would've thought?
Kim Trusty
Jul 24, 2017 rated it really liked it
A sensitive and concise look at the realities of "Brown" life in several places around the world. Al-Solaylee is an incredibly engaging story teller. Definitely worth a read. ...more
Yara Kodershah
Jan 31, 2020 rated it liked it
The strength of this book lies in the first hand accounts of peoples' stories and experiences. I felt like a lot of the references to my own culture and my own version of 'Brown-ness' rang true. The histories of migration were well researched, and I felt like oftentimes I could draw a straight line from the colonial history of the countries he explored to the present day realities of the people originating from those countries.

However, I felt like oftentimes the analysis was too simplistic. The
Jun 28, 2020 rated it really liked it
This book is a wonderful primer and start to understanding how dynamics between the powerful and the powerless can be played out along racial and religious lines. Because skin colour is an obvious and easy to identify “marker”, it’s often the one thing that discrimination can latch onto, alongside other markers such as one’s name.

The book further reinforces the fact that the “brown” identity holds a multitude of stories and I find myself thinking that it is such an oversimplification to call som
Jun 15, 2017 rated it liked it
Okay but could have been shorter I had read Kamal Al-Solaylee's autobiography a few years ago and wasn't impressed. But I was intrigued by the premise of this book and how "brown" people fit in society. They're not white but they're not black either. Al-Solaylee takes a look at how brown people live, work, survive, etc. in society.
He takes a mostly country by country look, giving the reader a bit of history mixed with societal/political context with some research and anecdotes from various peop
Indy Sahota
Dec 19, 2018 rated it really liked it
Al-Solaylee's "Brown" attempts to explain what it means to be racialized as a brown person in the developed world. I'd recommend this book to everyone for 2 reasons: 1. For non-brown folks to get a better understanding of what it means to be stereotyped a certain way for being brown, and to become allies in this fight against racism, and, 2. For brown folks to better understand how we perpetuate colourism, the favouring of lighter skin tones, and an indictment of those in the community who look ...more
Jane Mulkewich
Jul 09, 2018 rated it it was amazing
I started to read this book months ago and finally finished it today. All about the experiences of people who are not white and not black, there are chapters on Trinidad and on Canada, and other places like the Philippines, Hong Kong, Sri Lanka, Qatar, The United Kingdom, France and the United States. Trinidad is a racially complex country, where there is a large Indo-Trinidadian population (descended from indentured servants brought to the Caribbean from India by the British after black slavery ...more
Gavin Stephenson-Jackman
A very interesting investigation into the perception of colour around the world and within communities of colour. To think that colour differentiation exists within people of similar ethnic communities is hard to conceive for me since it's something I've never experienced and am unlikely to ever experience, yet from my observation of my students over the years I can understand. That so many times and places treat the 'other' as slave labour is frightening, and the worst part is that it's still h ...more
Agnes S
Jul 23, 2018 rated it really liked it
Shelves: poc, nonfic
3.5 stars. Some really compelling stories of immigrants and migrant workers but the author casts the net for what he defines as "brown" so wide (read: any person who isn't white, black, or East Asian) that it's difficult to come to any conclusion on what being brown in the world today means. Add intersecting factors like religion and culture mingled with the politics and "values" of the society to where these brown people have migrated or been displaced, and the experiences become varied enough ...more
Jul 30, 2018 rated it really liked it
I really enjoyed the thoughtful approach to what it means to be brown. As a brown person myself, I am certainly familiar with my own experience. But to read about what it may mean to say a person travelling from Mexico to live in USA, a Philippines worker travelling to China/Hongkong for work, or fellow Bengali's travelling to places like Dubai, Abu Dhabi and more to help with their construction industry - it shows the myriad of experiences we all go through in our way. And although most are hea ...more
May 18, 2017 rated it liked it
After briefly discussing the concepts race and colourism and their history in the first two chapters, Al-Solaylee begins the series of case studies that examine the idea of brownness from various angles, creating more breadth than depth. Al-Solaylee is exposing the surface of many complicated issues and situations, succeeding in providing a sense of the scope, but not a deep understanding. Nevertheless, he provides an entry point to a variety of situations that shine a light on our thinking abou ...more
May 13, 2017 rated it it was amazing
I'm on page 60 and am finding this book fasinating. However I have a comment to make. I have yet to come across a so called "white" person that is actually the colour white! More like shades of pink, peach, cream, etc. Same goes for "black". - more like shades of brown. I know Kamal Al-Solaylee is describing colourism as it exists in the world today, but it just irks me that the word "white" has being misused, but then describing yourself as pink or peach wouldn't hold the same connotations with ...more
Jul 06, 2018 rated it really liked it
This was a fascinating look at the struggles brown people around the world face, with a significant emphasis on immigration and labour. I found the author's own reflections on how he felt and was perceived in different situations really interesting, as it highlighted how much depends on context when it comes to perceptions about race. The one thing I felt was lacking was a call to action; there were a lot of injustices presented here, but I didn't come away knowing how to change anything, other ...more
May 17, 2016 rated it it was amazing
Hard to put down read that makes one more acutely aware of how global politics and attitudes are towards people that encompase being "brown". Touching stories that challenge the working migrant stereotype that bring the commonalities all people share to light.

While it does not touch upon many issues into as much detail as one would like, one cannot fault the book for not doing so. Deeper details in the form of a book would be encyclopedic in size
Danneka Sandors
Jul 09, 2016 rated it it was amazing
I think this should be required reading for every high-school student in North America. This is an eye-opening account of the lives of millions of "Brown" people living in countries all around the globe. Stories of modern-day slavery; stories of discrimination; stories of survival and stories of hope. This is an important book that will stay with me for a very long time. I highly recommend it to everyone. ...more
Apr 17, 2018 rated it really liked it
this was a neighbourhood book club selection that stimulated a long, interesting and passionate response in most of the group. It is a book that made me think, provided information, some unpalatable, and challenged assumptions I didn't even know I had. It throws whote provelegeinto high relief and is a book I will return to. Hard to absorb in a single setting. ...more
A powerful and informative book about race and racism. I hope this book is read widely because the subject matter is something that Canadians can't simply shrug away, especially with the political climate the way it is. ...more
Farhana Faruq
Dec 11, 2017 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: non-fiction
I thoroughly enjoyed this book. It's about being brown in the world today. How even the shade of brown makes a difference. It's well written, interesting and covers different countries - Trinidad, Qatar, France, Canada.. to name a few.

Enlightening and sad at the same time.
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Kamal Al-Solaylee (born 1964) is a Canadian journalist, who published his debut book, Intolerable: A Memoir of Extremes, in 2012.

Born in Aden, his family went into exile in Beirut and Cairo following the British decolonization of Yemen in 1967. Following a brief return to Yemen in his 20s, Al-Solaylee moved to London to complete his PhD in English, before moving to Canada.

He has worked extensively

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