Alan's Reviews > Too Asian, Not Asian Enough: An Anthology of New British Asian Fiction

Too Asian, Not Asian Enough by Kavita Bhanot
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's review
Sep 22, 2011

really liked it
bookshelves: short-stories, my-writer-s-group, read-in-2011
Read from October 10 to 24, 2011

actually I'm not sure whether this anthology will include any stories from writers in my group, but it is edited by group member Kavita Bhanot. It will be launched on Oct 7th at the Ikon Gallery,Birmingham, UK and I hope to be going along.

I did go along, a very good evening - two electrifying readings. Kavita does have a story in it, as well as editing.

This is an anthology of stories with writers at different stages of development, some like Bidisha well established, others just starting out. Inevitably then it is uneven and I had thought about giving it three stars, but this would be to ignore the handful of excellent stories in it, and the majority which are more than just good. Besides Kavita might not speak to me again. I think the critic in the Guardian is being a bit mean. Or a lot mean. He feels this challenge to established Asian writers (like himself) creates its own traps and expectations. Not having read enough British Asian fiction to be able to comment on this, I approached it instead as any other anthology and was (mostly) delighted by the stories here. I loved the cheekiness of Rajeev Balasubramanyam’s ‘Tablet of Bliss’ (which imagines David Beckham becoming a militant Islamist), and Rajorshi Chakraborti’s ‘All You Can Dream’ which features a giant brothel with all manner of things going on. Also slyly funny is ‘Asian of the Month’ (Gautam Malkani) which directly addresses the concerns of the editor by conjuring up a TV reality show with that title. The other stories I enjoyed most were Bobby Nayyar’s Phun, a poised and elegant story set in New York where the protagonist makes mistaken assumptions about the relationship between a woman he obsesses about and Phun, the man she is always with; Niven Govinden’s ‘Le Coiffeuse’ which features a woman who drives to remote villages ‘only accessible by ancient bridges’ to cut and collect the hair of the poverty stricken girls who queue for the meagre reward offered; Nikesh Shukla’s biting Iron Nose; Bidisha’s longish and beautiful school story ‘Dust’; Rohan Kar’s ‘Sepulchre’, another beautifully composed story set in Jerusalem, and Bhanot’s story ‘Gust of Life’ about an enigmatic young man who enters and changes the life of a woman who impulsively asks him in off the street.

Of course - as in most anthologies – there were one or two stories I didn’t connect with but taken all in all this was refreshing and provoking. Very glad I read it, and I’ll be looking out for some of the names above in future.

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