In a moving op-ed at The New York Times, author Zia Haider Rahman shares his thoughts on hyphenated identities and integration in Britain. Rahman was born in rural Bangladesh and emigrated as a child to the UK. He has studied in England, Germany and the United States and lived in several countries, working as a banker and a human rights lawyer before releasing his award-winning first novel, In the Light of What We Know.
— NYT Opinion (@nytopinion) April 10, 2016
The title of the op-ed (“Oh, So Now I’m Bangladeshi?”) refers to how he was described in an announcement about a writing award’s judging panel — “Zia Haider Rahman, a Bangladeshi banker turned novelist.” Rahman, who was actually a Wall Street banker and holds a British passport, notes that the announcement by Man Booker doesn’t mention the citizenship of his co-judges Vicky Featherstone and Sir Peter Stothard.
Rahman powerfully conveys how this “bastion of the British establishment” Man Booker deciding that he’s Bangladeshi makes him feel that he’ll never be accepted as British, despite having grown up adapting to fit in by imitating the voices of BBC News announcers, despite attending Oxford and Cambridge, receiving Britain’s oldest literary award and generally becoming a literary household name there.
— Shamus Khan (@shamuskhan) April 8, 2016
The problem is not exclusive to Britain, according to Rahman, and he shares a conversation he has with a Dutch sommelier whose parents are Egyptian, which illustrates how the promise of integration rings hollow on the European Continent too. Some of us on this side of the Atlantic can also identify with his feelings and experiences with growing up trying to adjust and fit in, being profoundly affected by how others identify you, and hyphenated identities.
This piece by Zia Haider Rahman is about Brits, but holy moly, I've had SO MANY of these feels as an Americanhttps://t.co/wnfyblZfJ4
— Mary Fan (@AstralColt) April 8, 2016
Read the complete op-ed online and watch the author expand on it (starting at around 4:45) in his introductory remarks at De Balie, an Amsterdam forum for analytical discussion of politics, culture and media. Around 12:12, Rahman talks about how the Man Booker announcement text about him might have read differently if drafted by an educated New Yorker.