Edition: Faber & Faber, 1998
Review number: 37
The Buddha of Suburbia tells the story of the adolescence of Karim Amir, who considers himself "an Englishman born and bred - almost". He is growing up in south-east London during the seventies, son of a mixed Asian-English marriage. Through Karim, Kureishi explores his major theme of what it means to be Asian in Britain, and has a fertile ground for the subsidiary themes of divorce, sexuality and class membership.
His father is moving more towards an Asian heritage which is not really his own - he comes from a rich Hindu background, and he is exploring Buddhism and setting himself up as a New Age guru with the help of his (upper middle class English) lover Eva. He is the Buddha of the title. Karim is desperately infatuated with Eva's son, Charlie; he has the glamour of being a singer in a rock band, albeit only a minor one. As punk becomes fashionable, Charlie re-invents his sub-Roxy Music image and becomes famous; the Amir family disintegrates and Karim begins to grow up.
The Buddha of Suburbia is a knowingly trendy read, which I enjoyed quite a bit.