Les Back: But what the book seems to do all the time, it talks about the way in which the places and the worlds in which those characters are living and moving transforms them?

M Y Alam: The thing that really changes Kilo is situation, rather than environment. Environment – locale, place and the politics of community are important, but that’s not what messes with Kilo. In a way, I suppose place – the geographical or even geo-political spaces are kind of incidental. For me it’s what happens where things get interesting. The space and more importantly those people that inhabit and constantly recreate it are the ones who drive, define and make Kilo what he is, whatever definition that turns out to be. It’s the fact that things are happening to him that drive the narrative.

Les Back: The other thing I suppose as well is that just thinking about what happened in the disturbances and the photographs of the young Asian men that were splashed all over the papers, I can’t think of a news report where you actually heard one of those young men’s voices.

M Y Alam: I’m not sure if this is entirely or even remotely relevant but one of the reasons why I write is because I don’t hear myself or I don’t hear or see people like myself when it comes to mass media. Not that I have sleepless nights about it but it is important. Linking it back to this idea we have called ‘literature’, I don’t read fictions about people like me either. I love film – mother’s milk – but I have never seen a filmic experience with which I can truly and deeply identify with. Sure, I watch movies and read books (occasionally) where I can see where the central character’s coming from but that’s about it. I understand things but I don’t truly relate to them. I mean how many books have you read where the narration starts going on about things that are specifically talking to and with me? Now this is kind of dangerous ground we’re walking on right now because you could get some cracker start talking separatist talk but that’s not where I’m at. I remember as a school kid reading shite about the Famous Five, about Nancy Drew and these days there’s that Harry Potter happy horseshit but to kids like the me of 20 years ago and even for a lot of kids now, that don’t mean shit. It’s important because people like me were and still are told that we don’t do nothing to integrate and here’s you and me, talking about the fact that I’ve nothing to read or significantly relate to. You extend that a little further and you could argue that by not recognising and therefore indirectly representing some groups, you’re actually – perhaps indirectly – telling them they’re not worth recognising in the first place.

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