Malkani, Gautam 1976-

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Malkani, Gautam 1976-

PERSONAL:

Born 1976; married. Education: Cambridge University, received degree.

ADDRESSES:

Office—Financial Times, Tabernacle Court, 16-28 Tabernacle St., London EC2A 4DD, England.

CAREER:

Financial Times, London, England, from graduate trainee to news desk and Washington Bureau staff, beginning 1997, head of Creative Business section, 2005—.

WRITINGS:

Londonstani (novel), Penguin Press (New York, NY), 2006.

SIDELIGHTS:

A British journalist who studied social and political science at Cambridge University, Gautam Malkani originally planned his first book to be a nonfiction work based on his dissertation about Asian communities in the Hounslow district where he grew up. "I was trying to do an S.E. Hinton [author of The Outsiders and Rumblefish] for Asian teenagers: a book anyone into urban youth culture, where you don't read books, might want to read," he told John O'Connell in Time Out Online. Malkani wanted to write about the "rudeboys," the street youth who form gangs in the area. He worked for years on the project, but could not get it to work. "[My] job made it tough, and every time I started to work on the book, it all seemed dull and boring," he recalled for Donald Morrison in a Times International article. "I found it easier to write fiction. In fact, it was fun." Turning his work into the novel Londonstani, Malkani found himself the object of media attention when he received a huge advance from his publisher, and there was considerable publicity about his unique use of language in the story, as well as the subject matter. Employing a combination of street slang—both English and various Asian dialects—and text-speak, the author attempts to capture the flavor of the language used by his characters. More importantly, though, the story is a serious look at the cultural and social issues of the Asian community in England.

The main character in Londonstani is Jas, a nineteen-year-old of Southeast Asian origin who wants to become part of the "desi" gang in his neighborhood. The gang members are a macho crowd who try to prove their manhood by beating up people and earning money by stealing phones and reprogramming them. Jas's involvement in this crime ring becomes one part of his problems in the novel, while the other is his romantic involvement with a Muslim girl. As Morrison related, "the more serious gora (white) critics won't b callin im gr8, but Malkani does tell a lively tale. He also captures the soul of a subculture that has spread far beyond his hometown, a movement that, as the author illustrates, has much to do with a second-generation-immigrant compulsion to assert identity." "Londonstani was not what I expected it to be," remarked Rageh Omaar in the New Statesman. "It bears little relation to the formulaic works one often comes across by Muslims, Asians and Africans, telling the stories of their emigration to Britain and their search for an identity. This is one of the most impressive things about the novel, and the most surprising. Londonstani is a book about many things, but it intends, above all, to show one thing: that being a young British Asian or African—whether you are Muslim, Hindu or Sikh—is not about having a completely westernised identity and set of aspirations."

BIOGRAPHICAL AND CRITICAL SOURCES:

PERIODICALS

Booklist, May 15, 2006, Hazel Rochman, review of Londonstani, p. 24.

Kirkus Reviews, April 1, 2006, review of Londonstani, p. 317.

Library Journal, May 1, 2006, Joy Humphrey, review of Londonstani, p. 82.

New Statesman, May 1, 2006, Rageh Omaar, "West Side Stories: Young Asians in Britain Have Reacted to Years of Oppression by Developing an Assertive—and Often Violent—Street Culture of Their Own," review of Londonstani, p. 48.

Times International (Asian edition), June 19, 2006, Donald Morrison, "Pump Up the Street Cred," review of Londonstani, p. 57.

ONLINE

Asians in Media Magazine,http://www.asiansinmedia.org/ (January 26, 2005), "Gautam Malkani Takes over FT's Creative Business Section."

Independent Online,http://www.independent.co.uk/ (April 21, 2006), Suhayl Saadi, "A Taste of Gangsta Sikh," review of Londonstani.

Time Out Online,http://www.timeout.com/ (April 15, 2006), Zoë Paxton, "He Speaks Their Language," review of Londonstani; (April 24, 2006), John O'Connell, "Gautam Malkani: Interview."*