Almost a year after the release of Life, Love and Assimilation, I am still asked how much of the novel is based on my life. I always provide the same answer; it is fact-based fiction. When pressed, I tell people that 60% of it is based on my experiences whereas 40% of it is fiction. Even this fails to satisfy some readers. Some pick out specific scenes and question the amount of truth in them. Others want to know if my real-life relationships are as “warped” as they are in the book.
Earlier this year I gave a reading as part of an event at the Idea Store in Whitechapel. I thought it was pretty worthwhile but I did feel that I had dampened the mood a little since I chose a particularly scornful extract. The audience was partly made up of pre-GCSE students so perhaps I should have chosen something “softer” but as most of you know, I’m pretty damn irresponsible with things like that (i.e. I’ll say what I want regardless of anybody else).
After the reading, I received a few e-mails asking if my relationship with my parents was really that bad. I admit that that particular excerpt was loosely based on my personal life but I was taken aback by the way people immediately conjoined my two parents.
If Kieran’s life was truly parallel to mine, she would have made it explicit that she loves her father. She would have said how grateful she is to him; how much she respects him. She would have told us how sad she gets at the sight of old men struggling with heavy groceries because she knows that is what her father has done all his life. She would have recognised the suffering her father endured in the efforts to provide his children with a better life. She would have explained how she shunted her true desires to make her father proud and told us how heartbreaking it was to bring shame to him. She would have said sorry and she would have said I love you.
Kieran would have said all the things she couldn’t say to her father in real life.