An enlightening memoir of living between worlds and learning how to find one’s own – from the artist and fashion designer
‘A beautifully observed and funny book’ Guardian ‘Compelling and humane’ Sathnam Sanghera
A coming-of-age story set in Birmingham in the 1980s and 1990s, The Go-Between opens a window into a closed migrant community living in a red-light district on the wrong side of the tracks.
The adult world is seen through Osman’s eyes as a child: his own devout Pashtun patriarchal community, with its divide between the world of men and women, living cheek-by-jowl with parallel migrant communities. The orthodox attend a mosque down the road from the prostitutes and pimps. Children balance Western school teachings with cultural traditions.
Alternative masculinities compete with strict gender roles, and female erasure and honour-based violence are committed, even as empowering female friendships prevail. The stories Osman tells, some fantastical and humorous, others melancholy and even harrowing, take us from the Birmingham of Osman’s childhood to the banks of the river Kabul and the river Indus, and, eventually, to the London of his teenage years.
Osman weaves in and out of these worlds, struggling with the dual burdens of racism and community expectations, as he is forced to realise it is no longer possible to exist in the spaces in between.
“A beautifully observed and funny book”
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“Osman’s compelling and humane memoir shines light into a hidden world I didn’t realise existed down the road from me. It’s an essential book that will help you understand multiculturalism in all its complexities”
“I don’t think I properly understood the true nature of multiculturalism before reading Osman Yousefzada’s The Go-Between. Only really good writing can bring alive the truth, the colour, the reality and the meaning of an experience like Osman’s. And he really is a good writer … I read with such pleasure, terror, amusement, admiration and fascination – it is surely one of the great childhood memoirs of our times”
“A poetic and moving book. Osman paints pictures with words, unfolding hidden stories that stay with you beyond the final page”
“Yousefzada’s funny and fascinating story of moving between two cultures … this memoir is a welcome exploration of time and place”
Osman Yousefzada was born in Birmingham to migrant parents who are illiterate in English and their mother tongue. He is an interdisciplinary artist and designer who studied at SOAS and Central Saint Martins, and went on to obtain an MPhil at Cambridge University. He has exhibited at international institutions including the Whitechapel Gallery, Dhaka Art Summit, V&A and more. He has been awarded the prestigious BFC New Generation award for three seasons. The Osman Yousefzada clothing line is worn by celebrities including Beyoncé, Lady Gaga, Lupita Nyong’o, Thandiwe Newton, Gwen Stefani, Emma Watson, Freida Pinto and many more. He edits The Collective and has written for Vogue, the Guardian and the Observer.