A British journalist comes to terms with his immigrant upbringing and love of Bruce Springsteen, each crippling in its own way.
Manzoor grew up in working-class Luton and, as related in his sketchy memoir, fit neither the molds set out by the society around him nor those of his Muslim parents. Early on, it became clear that he wasn’t going to be a drone like his father, a tough-as-nails factory worker with a jones for self-improvement, or marry a good Pakistani girl like his long-suffering, guilt-dispensing mother. In a series of eight slightly overlapping essays, Manzoor tells the story of growing up as a young Pakistani boy destined for backbreaking labor and adult responsibilities, only to have his life forever changed by hearing Springsteen’s music in college. Later on, he became a journalist for the BBC and the Guardian, but what really mattered was The Boss. Each chapter opens with a quote from the appropriate Springsteen lyric, and there’s no passage in Manzoor’s life so pressing or important that he can’t find a way to relate The Boss to it. Springsteen even appears when Manzoor discusses his troubled relationship with religion: “I wanted to be a Muslim like Philip Roth was a Jew or Bruce Springsteen was a Catholic.” Although Manzoor maintains a healthy sense of self-mocking humility and does an excellent job portraying his fantastically complicated striver of a father, his listless prose eventually makes this short book less rewarding than it should be.
Wins points for breaking the cultural mold, but a little too plain and unadorned.