A vivid collection of stories based on the author’s years an an adult education worker, mainly among women from India and Pakistan. The society in which they find themselves is alien, often hostile. Yet as they discover more about each other friendships develop across the boundaries of language and culture.
The women in these stories become as real as close friends. Frail, elderly Mrs G.K. Ramgharia as she learns to write . Farida who has to hide her shame that her husband is violent . Premila caught between her loyalty to her brothers and her desire to support her daughter in arranging her own marriage . Shanaz, who seems so warm and open, yet has areas of privacy she will not allow anyone to breach … Each story is different, each gives an entrée to daily lives their English neighbours hardly see. It is impossible to read this book and come away with stereotypes.
‘Marion Molteno’s stories concern one community and her relationship with it that has been sustained and practical over the years . Their chief and overwhelming characteristic is her compassion and her talent for sensitive perception .’ Anita Desai, novelist
(1st published, The Women’s Press, 1987)
ISBN: 9 780958 218603
Price: £7.00, distributed by Central Books
‘The uses of Literacy’ is also published in Singing in tune with time, ed. Elizabeth Cairns, Virago, 1993
Reviews of A language in common
The Independent, Ahmed Rashid
The most extraordinary book of short stories – one of the first attempts to straddle in fiction the social divide between white Britons and Asians. Her compassion never degenerates into sentimentality, and her sensitive perceptions come from a decade of getting to know her characters.
Sunday Times of India
Powerful portraits … She has a remarkable understanding of her characters and their conditions.
City Limits, London
Written with honesty, determination and purpose … It is beautiful and wise.
Times Educational Supplement
Charged with insight and compassion.
What readers say about A language in common
Claire Collison, London
I am so glad that I came across your highly inspirational book. I have read it twice – tube journeys aren’t the same anymore!
Madhu Kishwar, New Delhi
Your stories are very moving – I was often reduced to tears. Your compassion and love for people comes through every line you write. The stories provide deep insights into the Asian community’s life, its dilemmas and aspirations. They are very simply written though they are describing very complex situations and responses.
Dorrit Hawkesworth, Copenhagen
You draw your characters so that they retain dignity and joy (sometimes) in spite of difficulties. It is a delight to read – and a very true description of the atmosphere and sentiments I have met with Indian and Pakistani women here.
Sylvia Kellond, Croydon
I read it while travelling to work on the bus, and so engrossed I became that twice I went past my bus stop. I wanted to tell you how much I enjoyed the experience – your tremendous sensitivity towards your fellow men and women; your marvellous use of the English language – such delightful descriptive phrases – I could go on and on.
Gay Morris, Cape Town
I particularly admire the way you manage to convey the notion of being curious about someone else’s home and culture with no judgements and not a shred of patronising.
Sharanjeet Shan, Buckinghamshire
I laughed a bit, mostly at how some things about us Asians never change no matter where we go. I cried a lot when I read about your visit to India. You have depicted so many scenes with such acute observation. A marvel of a book.
Solveig Smith, Shirley, Surrey
I have travelled with you every mile on your Indian journey. I have wept with Shahnaz – the hidden tragedies some people carry in their hearts right through life. You have given so much of yourself in the book. I hope that many will read it and it will help to create a better understanding among people of different creed and colour.
Vivien Soldan, Chichester, West Sussex
It’s wonderful the way you make one feel involved from the very first paragraph. I don’t usually like short stories but I truly mean it when I say that I feel I have known the people you write about. I often think of them while I’m doing quite other things!
David Wilkin, New York
You are a marvellous story teller. I found it totally engaging from the beginning to the end. I especially enjoyed the story of the Muslim sect. You look at a very sensitive topic with great care and understanding, explaining both viewpoints so clearly. A delightful central story to a delightful book.
Margaret Horton, Brighton
A big thank you for making these stories available on audio tape. It grew dark over my garden while I listened last evening and I forgot to put on lights or get supper. Quite apart from the fantastic material, I love it for its honesty and compassion, and for the almost three-dimensional quality of the writing, so delicately seen and heard.
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