And then in a Guardian leader writer called into question Ali's very right to write about the Sylheti community:
... she was a mixed-race Oxford graduate whose main characters were not from Sylhet (the original home of nearly all Brick Lane residents) but a completely different region: Mymensingh. This is a bit like a story about geordies being treated as if it were about cockneys.This questioning of ethnic authenticity rightly enraged (among others) Hari Kunzru:
I reserve the right to imagine anyone and anything I damn well please. If I want to write about Jewish people, or paedophiles or Patagonians or witches in 12th-century Finland, then I will do so, despite being "authentically" none of these things. I also give notice that if I choose, I intend to imagine what your muddled writer quaintly terms "real people" living in "real communities". My work may convince or it may not. However, I will not accept that I have any a priori responsibility to anyone - white, black or brown, let alone any "community" - to represent them in any particular way. ... I'm sick of all this cant about cultural authenticity, and sick of the duty (imposed only on "minority" writers) to represent in some quasi-political fashion. Art isn't about promoting social cohesion, or cementing community relations. It's about telling the truth as you see it, even if it annoys or offends some people. That's called freedom of expression, and last time I checked we all thought it was quite a good idea.Forget for the moment Brick Lane, Monica Ali, Bangladeshis and Britain ... isn't the right to write about whosoever you "damn well please" one that you would claim for yourselves - particularly in multi-ethnic Malaysia?
(Pic of Brick Lane from the Guardian.)