OVER THE LAST TWO DECADES, in part due to the success of a small number of novels, plays, films, music albums and television shows, the term ‘British Asian’ has emerged as an identity marker associated with the cultural practices of second-generation South Asian immigrants, born and/ or brought up in Britain. There is one overwhelming narrative associated with this label: the tale of the second generation’s efforts to assimilate into mainstream British society, and the clash with their ‘traditional’ or ‘backward’ parents, who hinder this process. According to this reading, these parents make life difficult for their children, who simply want to be ‘normal’ – to go out with friends, to have boyfriends or girlfriends, to drink, to wear Western clothes, to cut their hair in a Western style. The parents are seen to continue to hold on to traditions and customs that should be irrelevant to them now that they are living in a land of freedom, pleasure and plenty.
But are these the only stories we British Asians have to tell? Is this the only subject we want to write about? Is this the only way that we want to write about
this subject? To challenge the dominance of this narrative, and to initiate a discussion on the pressures upon British Asian writers to perpetuate this narrative, I was recently involved in putting together Too Asian, Not Asian Enough, a collection of short stories by British Asian writers who were free to focus on anything they liked.
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