#CBR10Bingo: Home, Something, Home (this book is set at Stovner in Oslo, three stops away from where I live on the metro. It also concerns exactly the sort of pupils that I teach.)
Two youths, both living in the same tower block in a suburb on the east side of Oslo, in Stovner (where the large majority of inhabitants are immigrants or the children of immigrants). They start out going to the same high school. Starting in the year 2000, the framing device consists of these two teenagers, later young men, being asked to take part in a social studies survey, to map out the formative conditions for children and teens in these eastern suburbs, where the social divide between the white inhabitants of Norwegian descent and the poorer residents (mostly from minority language backgrounds, either first or second generation immigrants from the Middle East, South Asia and/or African countries) keeps getting bigger and more pronounced.
Mohammed (“It is tradition to name the first born Mohammed, and the Prophet is revered by all Muslims, but really, if they are so concerned with me going out and getting a good job and everything, I’m not entirely sure why they would give me that name”), who goes by Mo, writes his answers to the survey as e-mails. He is articulate, intelligent, rather shy and does very well in school. His parents have extremely high expectations of him, and early on, at least, they seem well on course to being fulfilled. Mo does well enough at high school that he wins a special scholarship, established for academically gifted children of immigrants, enabling him to go to University. He even gets to shake the prime minister’s hand during the scholarship ceremony.
Our second protagonist, Jamal, doesn’t really like to write, so he records his answers on tapes that are sent to the researcher in pre-paid envelopes. His answers are informal, irreverent, full of vernacular slang – a sociolect. His father is out of the picture, after a history of domestic violence. There’s just him, his increasingly depressed and ineffectual mother and his much younger little brother, whom Jamal has to step up and help raise. He has to take him to nursery every day and pick him up in the afternoons. He does most of the shopping, and even occasionally attends meetings at the nursery, and later his little brother’s school, because his mother isn’t really up to the job. While he complains in his reports, he doesn’t do it too loudly and swears the researcher to secrecy – no one wants the state to come and take his brother away from the family. After years of struggling through primary and secondary school and getting nowhere, only to find things harder and even more frustrating in high school, one day he has enough and just quits. He gets a job washing cars at a local garage, and is initially, at least, happy to be earning money.
The book follows these two young men over a period of about six years. We see how they view the world, and how they feel about the attitudes towards immigrants prevalent in society. We learn about their hopes, their dreams, their fears and how they feel about their families. Mo studies statistics and economics at the University of Oslo and loves it (at least to begin with). Jamal works at the car wash, gets stoned with his friends, listens to rap music and wants to be a gangster. At the same time, however, he’s doing his best to make sure his little brother is fed and that the staff at nursery and later, school, doesn’t report that the boy has problems speaking and occasionally wets himself when he’s nervous. Jamal gets frustrated at his mother’s refusal to be a proper parent.
Full review on my blog.
Bingo #6: (Cannonballer Says: The Long Way to a Small Angry Planet, Listicles: A Million Junes, #Cannonbookclub: Between the Bridge and the River, The Book was Better?: Crazy Rich Asians, Home, Something, Home: this)
Bingo #7: (Home, Something, Home: this, This Old Thing: Kilmeny of the Orchard, Fahrenheit 451: The Hate U Give, And So It Begins: Heroine Complex, So Shiny!: My Plain Jane)