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8 of 8 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars The thorny question of identity
Of all the issues that face the world in the twenty-first century, perhaps the most difficult is the issue of race relations. George Alagiah was born in Ceylon a few years before it became Sri Lanka, and raised there and in Ghana before being sent to boarding school in England, so is better qualified than most to write a book on the subject. Not only that, but he mainly...
Published on 22 May 2009 by Peter Durward Harris

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2 of 5 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Identity and Confusion?
George Alagiah is a familiar and welcome face on BBC TV news. This book is partly an outline autobiography as well as an analysis from a personal point of view of the race and culture problem in the UK. Alagiah himself is of Tamil Sri Lankan origin, though initially brought up mainly in Ghana and then educated at an English boarding school and university...
Published on 23 Nov. 2009 by Ian Millard


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8 of 8 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars The thorny question of identity, 22 May 2009
By 
Peter Durward Harris "Pete the music fan" (Leicester England) - See all my reviews
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This review is from: A Home from Home: From Immigrant Boy to English Man (Hardcover)
Of all the issues that face the world in the twenty-first century, perhaps the most difficult is the issue of race relations. George Alagiah was born in Ceylon a few years before it became Sri Lanka, and raised there and in Ghana before being sent to boarding school in England, so is better qualified than most to write a book on the subject. Not only that, but he mainly sticks to writing about his own experiences and research that is clearly informed by those experiences, without any need to set up any contrived situations to make his points. George sometimes uses terminology that a white person could never get away with using, but he uses it sparingly just to make an occasional point. It seems that even George is wary of such words, as he seems to avoid them as far as possible.

While this is not George's autobiography, there is plenty about his life here that he might wish to reproduce in his autobiography if he decides to write it. He discusses his time at boarding school in Portsmouth and at university in Durham, pointing out that he found acceptance by whites easy because of his novelty value, but contrasts this with situations that other immigrants have found themselves in. In this, he confirms what I'd tended to assume based on my own observations. If a society is composed almost entirely of one racial group of whatever color, the small minority have no choice but to conform because they don't have anybody else to befriend. When the size of the minority increases to the point where they form a significant group, that's when the potential trouble arises. Ultimately, it is for politicians at local and national level to find solutions. As George points out, those solutions, however well intentioned, don't usually work.

George goes back in time to describe how Britain became a multi-cultural society and how the process accelerated in the second half of the twentieth century. He discusses the legislation passed by various British governments, beginning with the Aliens Act of 1905 and how, with one exception, that act and all subsequent immigration acts have tightened the rules, especially aimed (it seems) at keeping out non-whites. He also discusses the 1948 act (the one exception) and how it seemed like an open invitation to Jamaicans, Indians and Pakistanis. They gleefully accepted although that was apparently not the British government's intention.

Much of George's book contains stories of ordinary people who have lived in multi-cultural Britain. Most are from the immigrant communities themselves, but George also includes white people who are in a minority in their own local area; one white boy only knows one other white boy. George illustrates how policies intended to make outsiders feel welcome may have made it easier for them to stick with their own kind, making no attempt to mix with others. This means mixing with other immigrant communities as well as with whites. Some inter-racial violence has been between rival immigrant groups although most trouble involves whites against immigrant communities. Some of Britain's cities contain different communities segregated along ethnic lines, with some areas almost exclusively white while others are almost exclusively black or Asian, sometimes further segregated by nationality or religion. In my experience, some cities are more segregated than others. During my time in Birmingham in the nineties, I was impressed by finding that people of all races lived in all parts of the city, though even this didn't prevent inter-racial problems occurring occasionally. Some areas had a higher proportion of black or Asian people than others, but I didn't see any area of Birmingham that I would call segregated like I'd earlier seen in West Yorkshire (specifically Leeds, Bradford and Keighley), where it seemed that segregation was the norm. It did not surprise me that the July 7 (2005) bombers mainly came from Leeds. I now live in Leicester, another multi-racial city, which appears to be less segregated than West Yorkshire, but less mixed than Birmingham. Nevertheless, things seem to mostly work quite well in Leicester.

George discusses arranged marriages, explaining how the system operates within the Pakistani community in particular. Apparently, other communities don't arrange marriages in the same way. I note that George was allowed to marry a white English woman of his own choosing, but although he doesn't say, it seems that nobody tried to arrange a marriage for him. He must have chosen well because his marriage has been successful, but he avoids debating whether arranged marriages are better or worse than other marriages. His view seems to be that sometimes they are better, sometimes not.

George knows that there is no easy answer to the perennial race issue. Any policy that emphasizes either integration or assimilation (both very emotive words) is likely to be controversial, but allowing each ethnic group to ignore all others (an unintended consequence of multiculturalism) creates its own problems. While the terrorist attacks in recent years illustrate the alienation felt by some British citizens who don't feel British, they may serve as a wake-up call to the vast majority of people of whatever race, religion or nationality.

George highlights the issues but even he cannot provide clear solutions. He doesn't like the way in which ethnic communities and whites increasingly tend to stick with their own kind but he doesn't know how to overcome the problem. Creating a future in which everybody feels welcome depends on all of us. Start by reading George's book. Wherever you live in the world, it will make you think. The problems in Britain are reflected, with variations, in America, mainland Europe and elsewhere.
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4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Thought-provoking and passionate, 24 April 2010
By 
M. V. Clarke (Durham, UK) - See all my reviews
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This is a remarkable book that ought to be widely read. Dealing with the contentious topic of immigration in Britain, George Alagiah, one of Britain's most well-known immigrants, uses his own personal story as the basis for a wider critique of policy, trends, attitudes and consequences of immigration in Britain. He presents a broad picture of the remarkable contribution immigrants have played in Britain through the twentieth century to the present, while incisively analysing the concept of multiculturalism and the ways in which it has been encouraged, which he sees as the root of many of the problems related to immigration and immigrant communities in Britain today. It is far from a one-sided view as there is much here to challenge readers from a variety of backgrounds - it should be read and considered carefully by liberals, anyone who's ever uttered the words "They come over here..." (the heading of one chapter), anyone with experience of immigration from any point of view, and those who have responsibility for such issues at local and national level. At one level, it's a very personal book, with accounts of his own experience and those of other inidividuals, but far from being a limiting factor, this is in fact one of its great strengths - a forceful reminder that these are not abstract issues, but that they involve real human beings and communities. This book should serve as a rejoinder to the unpalatable rise in popularity of far-right politics in recent times, but it is also an impassioned plea for a reconsideration of attitudes to multicultralism and integration. Highly recommended.
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14 of 16 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars To read again & again, 7 Nov. 2006
By 
P. Parsons (Cumbria, UK) - See all my reviews
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This review is from: A Home from Home: From Immigrant Boy to English Man (Hardcover)
A super book that starts with the writer's early years, justifying his 'right' to speak on the topic of race; followed by his thoughts on multiculturalism and integration. When there are phone-ins on the radio on these topics, my first thought now tends to be "what would George think?" A thought-provoking book that should be read and digested by everyone, whether a native or adopted Brit, before they express an opinion! I know I need -and want- to read it again and again.
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7 of 8 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars George is 'right on'!, 24 Jan. 2007
By 
Mark Johnson (Naples, USA) - See all my reviews
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This review is from: A Home from Home: From Immigrant Boy to English Man (Hardcover)
I love George's new book! Super job. George is 'right on'!

I particularly enjoyed the way George Alagiah relayed his personal experiences with the current immigrant situation in the UK. George's book taught me a lot about the British challenge as well as his innermost insights.
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10 of 12 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars About time someone said this, 16 April 2007
By 
M.Sam (london, Uk) - See all my reviews
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This review is from: A Home from Home: From Immigrant Boy to English Man (Hardcover)
I learnt about this book recently when Mr Alagiah spoke at Asia House in London. Chatting to him afterwards made me realise that all I'd thought the last few years was not so crazy.

As a highly-integrated, successful 'British Muslim' [as someone would apparently call me now] who still maintains links with his culture, I concur with his feelings that there is no point in living parallel lives as an immigrant. Immersion does not mean loss of one's identity, but in fact a new and fresh interpretation of that identity.

Education and economics no doubt play a big role - as can be seen by the success of the Gujaratis compared to my own Sylheti-Bengali culture, but policies need to encourage more integration, not segregation - especially as people will continue to cross borders as long as our world remains grossly unequal. UK tax-payers should not be paying for Bengali lessons - if I want my kids to learn Bengali, I'll teach them myself or get private classes. Their main language will be in English.

Mr Alagiah does not shy away from talking about institutional reasons for such segregration. Can you blame the rise of ghettos after years of racism, racist housing policies, lack of opportunities..And let's not forget how bad the English are at 'integrating' themselves on the Costa de Sol..

Ultimately immigration will continue to exist whilst the 'first world' continues to rape the 'third world'. Whilst it does, we'd better think of better ways of dealing with it. The first thing may be to see similarities in each other, not differences.

Powerful polemic.
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5.0 out of 5 stars Well worth reading, 31 Oct. 2013
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Alagiah, a journalist, writes very, very clearly and gets to the centre of issues very precisely. This is a first rate book if you are interested in how immigrants experience living in England. It is self-reflective (Alagiah is very privileged, most immigrants are poor) so there is also the dimension of experiences differentiated by status and origin. In particular, it is an analysis of issues surrounding the way multi-culturalism has been implemented (by both left and right), in ways which ensure continuing segregation of immigrant groups . . . and so some sense as well of how long the process of "becoming English" can be (generational).

I read this just after finishing "Maps for Lost Lovers", which could be set in Bradford. The interesting thing is Alagiah's own discussion of how Pakistani immigrants in Bradford came to reproduce their own rural culture and how this interacted with a less than enthusiastic welcome in the city.

This is a first rate critique of "immigration/race relations" policy in England. The position he sets out is contentious -- in the context of the conventional wisdom about multi-culturalism, and it should be read by all, just to get behind the way the English have constructed their (unquestioned) conventional wisdom.
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4.0 out of 5 stars Very engaging book about immigration and assimilation, 12 Aug. 2010
By 
Mr. D. E. Calladine - See all my reviews
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This review is from: A Home from Home: From Immigrant Boy to English Man (Hardcover)
I really enjoyed this book, and found that it challenged a lot of the perceptions that I have about race and immigration in the UK.
It's not as autobiographical as it appears from the cover. Instead it's a very rounded look at immigration from a number of viewpoint, and then moves onto how immigrants are assimilated into their new country.
The chapter about Bradford was fascinating, and a little scary. It would be a great book for book groups; there's lots to discuss.
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7 of 9 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars The failure of multiculturalism, 21 Mar. 2007
By 
Richard Batty - See all my reviews
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This review is from: A Home from Home: From Immigrant Boy to English Man (Hardcover)
In turns amusing and serious, this is a fine follow-up to George Alagiah's first book. At the core of "A Home from Home" is a perceptive analysis of the way multiculturalism has failed in the UK. Bigots of all flavours will no doubt hate what Alagiah has to say, but for me he has got to the heart of the matter.
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5.0 out of 5 stars good read, 12 May 2014
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from page one was hooked very erudite it felt like I was actually having a conversation with George Alagiah.He gave quite an incite to Immigrants arriving from there perspective.
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2 of 5 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Identity and Confusion?, 23 Nov. 2009
By 
Ian Millard - See all my reviews
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This review is from: A Home from Home: From Immigrant Boy to English Man (Hardcover)
George Alagiah is a familiar and welcome face on BBC TV news. This book is partly an outline autobiography as well as an analysis from a personal point of view of the race and culture problem in the UK. Alagiah himself is of Tamil Sri Lankan origin, though initially brought up mainly in Ghana and then educated at an English boarding school and university.

Alagiah is troubled that "multiculturalism", the dominant propaganda and policy of British governments for many years now, together with its potentially contrasting doctrine of "diversity", is not working. He says himself that "in parts of the UK now you feel you could be in another country". Quite.

He cannot bring himself to speak against immigration as such, quite the contrary, but does see some of the results, though at times through rose-tinted glasses, as where he lauds his own neighbourhood, the fashionably edgy one of Stoke Newington. I knew people there 15 years ago and used to call it "bandit country", a view reinforced by the news (as I read this book) of someone stabbed and run over in the area.

Alagiah lauds American historical immigration, but while it is true that a new country was created by the European (and, from 1880, Jewish) immigrants into the USA, Alagiah does not mention what happened to the indigenous peoples, who were ethnically cleansed and more or less wiped out. That might be our future unless we act now.

Alagiah's views on political issues are not entirely correct historically: Mosley's Blackshirts did not "lead" the violence in Cable Street in 1936. That was caused mainly by a motley crew of thousands of Communists and others, mainly Jews (many paid by wealthy business interests and gangsters), a situation parallelled in postwar clashes with Mosley's Union Movement and, later, in the 1970's, when the "Anti-Nazi League" (ANL) seemed always to have plenty of money to bus around crowds of thugs to try to attack National Front marches. The same is happening now as millions of people start to turn to the BNP as a possible political saviour. Alagiah refers to the NF as "political thugs", which was not my impression when I attended one or two NF meetings in 1975. Alagiah is about my age and should know better.

The author does not give much credit to the British Empire, though without it he himself, had he stayed in his country of birth, might be now in one of the camps set up by Sinhalese in Sri Lanka, in order to corral the Tamil civilians.

I founds Alagiah, though superficially amiable, very full of himself and his "achievements" (ie making a lot of money thanks to the BBC and the licence-payers): he uses the word "achievement" in relation to himself, frequently. Not very "English" or "British", surely?

The analysis of identity is interesting, but, in our present historical period, culture IS based largely (not entirely) on race or racial and national foundations. At one point the author says that he "believes in Queen and Country --- whatever that means." Quite. Without a foundation at least of race and nation, national identity becomes a meaningless jumble of, in the case of the UK, "fair play", the shipping forecast areas, red buses and telephone boxes, the kind of conceptual chaos which emerges when politicians (whether Gordon Brown or Boris Johnson) try to define nationality and identity while taking race out of the equation...
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A Home from Home: From Immigrant Boy to English Man
A Home from Home: From Immigrant Boy to English Man by George Alagiah (Hardcover - 31 Aug. 2006)
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