NO NEW LAND by M.G. Vassanji

NO NEW LAND

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KIRKUS REVIEW

 An intimate portrait of the Indian community in Toronto from Vassanji (Uhuru Street, not reviewed). Nurdin Lalani is an East African of Indian descent who achieves an unimpressive but respectable equilibrium in Africa as a traveling shoe-salesman. But when African independence and nationalization movements of the 1970s make the situation in his hometown of Dar untenable, Nurdin immigrates to Canada with his wife, Zera, and their two young children, Fatima and Hanif. Life in Toronto is difficult for Nurdin. While Zera gets work immediately, and the children easily adapt to Canadian culture, Nurdin himself is jobless and rootless, both intrigued and intimidated by his unfamiliar surroundings. He's also placed in the awkward position of being supported by his wife and feels that he is not respected by his children. (Fatima tells her teachers that her father is a doctor, rather than an attendant, at the Ontario Addiction Centre, where he finally finds work.) Nurdin's solace and escape is in the strong Indian community that has somehow managed to replicate its East African lifestyle in Toronto, albeit modified. Gulshan Bai, for example, who had cooked for the residents of Dar over coal and wood fires with the help of numerous servants, continues to cook, but alone, in her apartment. Vassanji writes that ``it is not unusual to find coming down in an elevator a well-dressed young couple looking stiffly in front, holding...the local version of a bundle that a Gujarati peasant might carry: a plastic bag around several plastic containers.'' Best, here, are the author's descriptions of a transplanted people clinging to their past. The plot, loosely woven around Nurdin's being accused of molesting a woman, is secondary. Clear-eyed, sympathetic, and absorbing.

Pub Date: March 22nd, 1995
ISBN: 0-7710-8720-9
Page count: 224pp
Publisher: McClelland & Stewart
Review Posted Online:
Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 1st, 1995




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