Who Are We - And Should It Matter in the 21st Century? by Gary Younge
|Who Are We - And Should It Matter in the 21st Century? by Gary Younge|
|Reviewer: Luci Davin|
|Summary: A thoughtful and very readable look at how identity impacts on politics – can our various identities bring us together instead of dividing us?|
|Buy? Yes||Borrow? Yes|
|Pages: 256||Date: June 2010|
Journalist Gary Younge’s book draws heavily on his articles for the Guardian newspaper, as he mentions in his acknowledgements, but it isn’t just a collection of his journalism. Who Are We? is partly a memoir and partly a thoughtful and incisive exploration of the politics and political impact of identity, including race, gender, language groups, religion, sexuality in various countries around the world. He sets out to explore To what extent can our various identities be mobilized to accentuate our universal humanity as opposed to separating us off into various, antagonistic camps?
One of the most interesting chapters is Me, Myself, I, in which Gary Younge tells some of his own story. Gary Younge was born in 1969 in Hertfordshire, where his parents had settled when they came to Britain from Barbados. He was the youngest of three boys and brought up in a council house, but his parents, like many immigrants, came to England with a good education. He had a spell of teenage membership of the Workers’ Revolutionary Party, then spent a year in Sudan as a volunteer teaching English after finishing school at 17. After university he studied in Paris (where he experienced a lot of racism) and Leningrad (where contrary to the expectations of many of his friends, he was regarded as the quintessential symbol of wealth and Western cool – he was more clearly not Russian than white English students, and he wasn’t African, so it was assumed that he must be wealthy. He is now a US correspondent for the Guardian and lives in Brooklyn, New York City – and comments that the recent birth of his son makes it seem more likely he will settle in the US for good. He also muses on his son’s future prospects as a black man in the US or England, but reflects that he is a product of his time and space.
Younge probably has enough US material for a whole book on its own – some of the people and issues featured here include mothers of soldiers, Cindy Sheehan and Cindy McCain, anti and pro-war, the selection of a Latina female judge and Tiger Woods. There is a whole chapter on the contest to be the Democratic presidential candidate between Hilary Clinton and Barack Obama, a white woman and a black man.
There is also some less familiar material – I hadn’t previously realised the extent of the political and social divisions between Flemish and French speaking Belgians. There are sections on Israel, South Africa, Ireland and other countries. There is a chapter on Muslims in Britain and Europe.
I am impressed by Younge’s skill at bringing together a huge range of examples of identity in politics and exploring them intelligently, trying to probe behind and get away from the clichés in our media and from our politicians. He does this in a style which is very accessible and readable.
Thank you to Penguin for sending a copy to the Bookbag.
I will be looking to read Gary Younge’s two previous books, but would also suggest for further reading Zadie Smith’s Changing My Mind and Chinua Achebe’s The Education of a British-Protected Child – both these books contain some autobiography and some other pieces. Another possibility is My Family and Other Disasters by another Guardian writer, Lucy Mangan. You might also appreciate Romeo and Juliet in Palestine: Teaching Under Occupation by Tom Sperlinger.
You can read more book reviews or buy Who Are We - And Should It Matter in the 21st Century? by Gary Younge at Amazon.co.uk Amazon currently charges £2.99 for standard delivery for orders under £20, over which delivery is free.
You can read more book reviews or buy Who Are We - And Should It Matter in the 21st Century? by Gary Younge at Amazon.com.
Like to comment on this review?
Just send us an email and we'll put the best up on the site.