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Diers; the constant harassment by London police and his schoolmates; the endless battles he will face as a black man in England He leaves behind Meina the beloved older sister he had always tried to protect James a lonely studious teen the baby of the drug dealing Morrison clan whose brothers are dehumanized violent criminals desperately wants to escap. This debut novel by the East End raised son of Nigerian immigrants to England has a pretty clear point of view And that view is that racism permeates British culture fashionable multiculturalism is an illusion and pretty much all black men are locked in a lifelong struggle to break free of the negative expectations they see in the mirror Personally I found the expression of these themes a bit on the strident side and sometimes rather clumsily articulated but then again as a comfortably middle class white guy it could be reasonably argued that I posses none of the experience reuired to truly engage with the material Nonetheless I found the book worth reading in several respects especially its portrayal of the lives of two Somali immigrants to London the cultural dislocation they feel and the oppressive psychic climate of the East End estates that much of the story is set in That story is told almost entirely through the voices of an 18 year old Somali immigrant named Meina and a 16 year old black English kid named James who is the youngest of five drug dealing brothers Meina and James are brought together by the dark friendship James has with Meina s brother Ashvin The two teenage boys converted their despair with life s possibilities into a suicide pact that led to Ashvin s death and James near death The bulk of the book follows James and Meina s attempt to pick up the threads of their shattered lives after this tragedy If this sounds familiar it s because the plot and indeed the book itself is a kind of homage to James Baldwin s Another Country which is somewhat tiresomely namechecked a number of times throughout Their pain filled story comes across like a kind of extreme kitchen sink drama imagine a film like Nil By Mouth as done by Spike Lee The two must struggle to survive and find some way out of the grim slum life that surrounds them James strikes the reader as a character fully informed by Akinti s own upbringing and his anguish and frustration with life often feels like the writer s own catharsis and thus sometimes kind of overthought and overwritten At times his pain and confusion is wonderfully rendered but at others he comes across as far too sophisticated and existential an observer of life for a 16 year old Meanwhile despite being raped a number of times in Somalia Meina provides a stable core to a story otherwise suffused with troubled souls including her brother who witnessed the torture and murder of their parents at least one of James gangster brothers and his crack addict mother not to mention some clueless well meaning white folks The publisher seems to be positioning the book as a raw and angry one but it never uite got to that level for me James doesn t seem angry so much as frustrated and dismissive of what society has to offer Meina certainly never comes across as angry and her brother comes across mainly as the victim of post traumatic stress Yes there is some very graphic violence including a devastating rape scene indeed rape is a prevalent theme in the book but I m not sure that makes it a raw The final third of the book starts to veer into melodrama turf especially the actions of one of James brothers which read like a heavy handed metaphor for the black male condition than a realistic conclusion In the end it s this kind of heavy handedness that marks the book as a debut and kept me from really falling under its spell

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Forest Gate

E the family business but he can't imagine a way out When James jumps but survives Meina seeks James out and they try to find shelter in one another Akinti himself a product of London's council estates public housing captures in gracious and resonant prose the fear anger and sadness of life in the violent and poverty stricken slums of London's East End.

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Akinti's raw and riveting debut novel begins with Ashvin an angry teenage Somali refugee and his best friend James on opposite rooftops in the slums of East London preparing to hang themselves in a suicide pact Ashvin leaps unable to bear the reality of his own life his activist parents murdered in Somalia; his brutal rape at the hands of Ethiopian sol. One morning during her early morning class young Meina is unexpectedly removed and brought to speak with two policemen who inform her that her brother Ashvin is dead Ashvin and his best friend James had recently put a suicide pact into motion both boys hanging themselves from two opposite tower roofs It is only Ashvin who succeeds in ending his life leaving James behind full of feelings of guilt and irreparable despair When Meina discovers that the two boys acted in conjunction she seeks James out to discover Ashvin s motives The two soon find themselves in a tentative relationship their sadness giving way to love But James and Meina have outside conflicts that threaten their new peace James is the youngest brother of five and all of his siblings are drug runners and arms dealers and his mother is addicted to crack Meina has escaped the war in Somalia after the brutal murder of her parents and is now at the mercy of a benefactor whose motives may not be pure As Meina and James struggle to cope with the violence and casual cruelties of their London tenement existence they begin to discover that life s unexpected reversals have led to than their new relationship and they must find a way to leave their oppressive and stale environment behind to move on to a fruitful future In this raw and haunting debut author Peter Akinti spins a tale of two lives caught in the midst of a terrible violence and the shattered dreams it inflicts upon its innocent bystandersIt is rare for me to come across a book like this This story is very gritty and filled with the frustration and sadness of people inhabiting a dim and violence charged world Akinti doesn t flinch at all in his tale and the anger and frustration burst off the page and burn into the reader s psyche like fire There are no missteps in this tale no fumbling in emotion or intention and often when I was reading I was caught up in extreme feelings of anger The disillusionment of the characters was palpable and it seemed that no matter what they did or said they were destined to be misunderstood and marginalized It was an extremely powerful book and one that made me reach into the deep recesses if my mind to formulate uestions that I had previously given little to no thought toThe book begin with the death and attempted suicide of the two boys and from there the action focuses on the dual and shifting narrative of James and Meina Both the main characters have reasons to be broken and despondent both are filled with indignation at their circumstances But there is not only the anger of their shared suffering on the page there is also a sense of their fleeting dreams and unrealized potential and the desperate wrestling of their hope for the future As the narrative winds on I came to realize that these two would have to go to extraordinary lengths to find even a modicum of happiness for themselves To pull out of this desperate tailspin they would have to be given the chance to start anew when everything and everyone was holding them back Their situation was indeed grim and the answers to their problems involved their traveling down paths filled with pain and recrimination There were no easy answers for these two and it was a long uphill struggle for both of themThe book was filled with a scathing sense of social commentary uestions about identity self worth and the age old repercussions of violence were deftly intertwined into the narrative with both Meina and James acting as mouthpieces to these shared conflicts James speaks elegantly and at length about the stereotyping of black males and the ways that people try to defy these stereotypes in themselves and their community only to find that they are beginning to embody everything that they are fighting against Meina speaks about the extreme liberties that have been taken of her body and mind the confusion of war and the loss of self respect and self value Together they have a lot to say and it is within these messages that the book seeks to be the fulcrum of change These messages are often biting and brutal the lessons they impart hard won I thought that there was a strange beauty in these messages The dark meanderings of Akinti s soul took on a life and force that resonated in me profoundly and struck me deeply The fear that was etched into these characters was palpable and their expression of it not only sincere but frighteningAnother thing I liked about this book was the earnestness of the dialogue Though most of it was caustic it had a uniue ability to also be reflective and to feel humble There were small snippets of dialogue that startled with their implications and penetration and I felt that Akinti definitely succeeded in making his characters voices believable and authentic in a way that not many books of this caliber do The uestions that the characters asked of each other and themselves were not only searching of themselves but of the wider community surrounding themAt the end of the book Akinti also provides an essay reflecting his early years in London This essay reveals that his life was plagued by many of the uestions that his characters faced and I saw a startling similarity between Akinti and his character James I thought that the essay was a brilliant companion to the story as it really struck the roots of the societal damage that is inflicted on living breathing human beingsThough this book was very dark it excelled in getting its messages across and driving home the realities of violence subjugation and racism It was one hell of a powerhouse in terms of plot character and in the driving home of its messages and I highly recommend it as a read that crosses genres It is certainly a book that will make you think and though the majority of the plot is mired in sadness there does come a point where things begin to move towards the realm of hope and possibility Akiniti is a brilliant author and I hope to read of his work when it becomes available to me Don t pass this book up Though it is far from gentle it has the ability to change you in some very powerful ways

10 thoughts on “Forest Gate

  1. says:

    Forest Gate is a painful poignant and brilliant novel It comes as close to perfect as any novel I've ever read Akinti pulls no punches in a visceral and vivid display of life in both London's Forest Gate community and a war torn Somalia Centering around representatives from those two walks of life James Morrison and Armenia and their budding relationship in the face of the tragic suicide attempt by James and Armenia's b

  2. says:

    One morning during her early morning class young Meina is unexpectedly removed and brought to speak with two policemen who inform her that her brother Ashvin is dead Ashvin and his best friend James had recently put a suicide pact into motion both boys hanging themselves from two opposite tower roofs It is only Ashvin who succeeds in ending his life leaving James behind full of feelings of guilt and irreparable despai

  3. says:

    I'm not sure of how or why I came upon this book I think it was a grab in passing from the public library's browse

  4. says:

    one of my book culbs are reading this book this kind of book is new to me so to me it was a lil slow i almost stop reading it im hap

  5. says:

    This debut novel by the East End raised son of Nigerian immigrants to England has a pretty clear point of view And that view is tha

  6. says:

    In the old council flats of London a tragic event ripples through gang and racial warfare James a local black British teen from a successfulcrack dealing family and his best friend Ashvin a poet loving Somali refugee jump off a towering build

  7. says:

    It was interesting that I received Forest Gate shortly after I The Girl Who Fell From the Sky by Durrow It too deals with racial issues but from a very different perspective I could not have planned my reading any better and I would like to thank Simon Schuster Free Press for the opportunity to read and review this firs

  8. says:

    Forest Gate is Peter Akita's debut novel I hadn't ever heard of him before until I came across his absolute gem o

  9. says:

    Forest Gate told a very dark tale of multiple rapes murder and suicide but with such detailed backstory that I fully understood the motivations behind the actions as terrible as they were Akinti goes as far as making the reader believe the rape of the Ethiopaian boy Namal is justified by Ashvin's own rape years earlier All throughout the rea

  10. says:

    From the moment I started reading this book I was entranced by the truthful raw elegant and articulate way of writing The author makes you want to keep reading want to keep imagining There were so many truths about the state of our societies the way men in particular are forced to put on a harsh facade and play the game even if they abhor it The stories of Somalia were painful but so beautiful The stories of the family made me feel like

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