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Monica Ali: Homecoming

  • Published at 10:53 pm November 4th, 2019
Monica Ali

The British-Bangladeshi writer is going to make her appearance in Bangladesh’s biggest literary festival this year

Readers of fiction by Bangladeshi or Bangladeshi-origin writers have long wanted to see Monica Ali attend the Dhaka Lit Fest ever since the festival started in Dhaka.  

Born in Dhaka and raised in England, Ali went to the University of Oxford and graduated with a degree in Philosophy, Politics and Economics. Ali’s debut novel Brick Lane became an international sensation. Before the book was even published, she was named by Granta magazine as “one of Britain's 20 best young novelists” in 2003. It was also shortlisted for the 2003 Man Booker Prize. 

Brick Lane revolves around Nazneen who is born in a village in Bangladesh and married off to Chanu, a man twice her age, at the age of eighteen; Nazneen migrates to London with her husband. On the one hand, the novel depicts the story of a Bangladeshi Muslim community in London and on the other, it sheds light on the lives of Nazneen and Chanu. Caught between a real home and an adopted one, the characters explore their identities against a backdrop of distrust against the Muslims. 

Nazneen, who initially finds herself insecure and depressed, adjusts to new life in London; her journey as a character is rich with both shocking and elevating events and experiences. Through letters sent to her by her sister Hasina, her only link with her real home, she keeps abreast of the social-political changes and situations in Bangladesh.  

After Brick Lane’s take on British-Bengali identity, it came as a bit of a surprise that Monica’s next book, Altenjo Blue (2006)was set in Southern Portugal, and focused on British expatriates and local inhabitants of the village. The overarching theme of this book is poverty, and the sadness that comes from living unfulfilled lives. In 2009, Into the Kitchen came out; it is about modern Britain. Her last book, Untold Story, came out in 2011 and tells the story of a mysterious foreign woman in rural America, after having faked her death as a means of escaping her previous life.  

Nuggets in Ali’s career

  • Monica has been a guest editor of BBC Radio 4’s Today program, and has presented several editions of the show, A Point of View.
  • From 2015-2018, she was a Distinguished Writer in Residence at the University of Surrey.
  • Monica has taught creative writing at Columbia University, New York, as a visiting Professor.
  • Monica is a trustee of the St Giles Trust, which is a charity that helps marginalized and disadvantaged people in the UK.