Anita and me
Like every nine-year-old girl, Meena can’t wait to grow up and break free from her parents, but as the daughter of the only Punjabi family in the mining village of Tollington, her daily struggle for independence is different from most. She wants fishfingers and chips, not just chapati and dhal; she wants an English Christmas, not the usual interminable Punjabi festivities but more than anything, more than mini-skirts and the freedom to watch Opportunity Knocks, Meena wants to roam the backyards of working-class Tollington with feisty Anita Rutter and her gang.
Written with great warmth and fun and just a hint of wistfulness, Anita and Me is a unique vision of a British childhood in the Sixties, a childhood caught between two cultures, each on the brink of change.
God knows there have been enough memoirs of growing up in the Sixties, but Syal’s account has a welcome freshness of perspective. She smartly catches the strangeness and violence of childhood, and skilfully evokes an almost vanished kind of rural working-class life. A promising debut.’ GQ
Anita and Me is full of pleasure. Syal is as skilful at rendering the saucy, ballsy backchat of the Tollington women as she is at describing Meena’s “uncles and aunties”. her parents’ Indian friends. The book is expertly structured and engagingly written, illuminated throughout by Meena’s ironical reverance and robustness of spirit. I can give it no higher recommendation.’
Laura Tenant, Guardian