I came across Coconut Unlimited, the debut novel by British author Nikesh Shukla, by way of my formidably well-read friend Margo’s interview with him on Bookslut.
Coconut Unlimited is told from the perspective of Amit, a gujarati boy from Harrow who is introduced to his first true love, hip hop, at the age of 9 when his cousin presents him with a dubbed tape called “Rap Trax!”, opening with Public Enemy’s “Don’t Believe the Hype”. What follows is a personal, yet also universal, story of a teen boy and his love for hip hop, intertwined with the ordinary struggles of adolescence and the particular story of growing up Asian in London in the 90s.
I can’t wait to read the book in full, I’m attracted to the obsessive detail about tapes & music fandom that the author seems to use as the backbone of his book. One bit I managed to read had the kids making an un-recordable tape recordable again by filling up the holes with tissue – totally remember doing that with my sister, though I’m pretty sure we used sticky tape. So it’s a bit of a nostalgia trip.
But not only that, though the author talks about his frustration about being pigeon holed as an Asian author in Margo’s interview, one of the things that draws me to this story is the familiarity that comes with the character being Indian, and being second generation in a country that parents, or grandparents moved to, with possibly other intentions for their children in mind than them becoming rap stars, or other [insert weird hobby/job here].
Books about these second/third etc generation kids, and, relatedly, mixed race kids, are few and far between, and if they exist, often seemed focused on “issues” an an overly earnest way that make out like it’s a problem for these kids to be living in a country that’s not their “ancestral home” or to be ethnically & culturally mixed. Sure, there are issues, and I guess it’s important to discuss, but for god’s sake, I hope that Nikesh is not going to be the only one who writes books about us being obsessed with taping Snoop Dogg in the 90’s or whatever, cos that’s what I want to be reading about. Well, I fairly over-explained my obsession about that on this very blog.
On a bit of a lazy tangent, I’m really looking forward to checking out the exhibition, For the Record: The Social Life of Indian Vinyl in Southall, which came to my attention through Red’s blog Feminist Memory. This will be an indepth look at the way in which the South Asian community in Southall exchanged & listened to vinyl in the 60s and 70s. Sounds like something I need to know about.