Proceedings of the 5th International Conference on Language, Literature, Culture and Education 2016

Can Caged Birds Fly? Exploring the Themes of Freedom and Repression in Contemporary British Asian Literature

Soumi Sinha Ray

Ethiraj College for Women, India


The British Asian label in its present avatar started emerging in the 1990s with the success of books, films, plays, music albums and TV shows by and about the British Asians. From Hanif Kureishi’s 1990 novel The Buddha of Suburbia it’s been an exciting journey to see the South Asian immigrants or descendants of the immigrants find a foothold in mainstream literature. For the first crop of writers and artists it was a heady feeling of freedom that their own life experiences could be acceptable and marketable. However, every time a new British Asian book or film appears, the narrative brings with it a strong sense of deja vue. Stories of overbearing traditional parents, the cultural and racial conflicts, arranged marriages, grand weddings, Indian feasts, funerals and rich fabrics provide a clichéd backdrop in novel. Individuality and freedom of choice do not exist as there is a strong pressure to conform to the outdated values of the ‘homeland’. Our paper aims to map out a few of these journeys undertaken by young women in Meera Syal’s Life Isn’t All Ha Ha Hi Hi, Neetika Lalwani’s Gifed and Preethi Nair’s Beyond Indigo to see how restrictive and stifling parental expectations can be for the second-generation women. How these women finally manage to carve out a more freeing space for themselves and the steep price they have to pay for it.


British Asian Literature, diasporic literature, women’s literature

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