Greetingsfrom Bury Park
Inhis 2007 memoir, “Greetingsfrom Bury Park,”Sarfraz Manzoor, a British journalist, presents an account of aMuslim growing in a community full of cultural and religious valueconflict. The memoir gives an account of how Manzoor comes to live inBritain and how the beliefs of his father make him regularly tornbetween incongruity of his personal ambition and his heritage.According to the author, it is not until he listens to BruceSpringsteen rock music that he is inspired and attainsself-affirmation in an environment that offers neither. The author’sfather contributes much of the cultural conflict in that he isconstantly indoctrinating him to tenets of Muslim faith and heritagein a multicultural environment. As with other children in the familyand other immigrants, Manzoor is seen as constantly fighting toreconcile being a Muslim and a British at the same time and to fitwithin the existing cultural environment. In this memoir, Manzoorrecalls the experiences he undergoes together with his familyconcerning adjusting to the multicultural society and finally beingassimilated.
Asthe name suggests, a memoir, full of recollections, Manzoor undergoesoff-putting and diverse experiences that seem so scintillating. Theassessment of Manzoor father’s spur to the author provides the mostcontextual and variant aspect that one can realize in a memoir. Here,or rather throughout the memoir, Manzoor comes to terms with theimmigrant upbringing and love that he so much experiences. However,the immigrant upbringing comes with frustration as Manzoor tries totranscend race, but with such perceptive adjustment, that one feelsaligned to the memories of Manzoor. As far as the recollections ofManzoor’s experiences inspires idealism, Manzoor’s struggle forcultural identity and escape from the confinements of extraneousaspects provides the much needed contextual ideals for understandingthe role of the author’s father and Bruce Springsteen.
Inthe accounts of the book, the author’s father, though extremelyambitious to provide his children with the best life opportunities isalso afraid that their values and heritage will be eroded by thevalues practiced in the new country. He views many things in Britainas immoral and goes ahead to deny his family even the chance to watchtelevision and movies. By sending his children to a school where moststudents are white, the author’s father unconsciously contradictshis own fears that their Muslim values would be eroded by the newculture. Manzoorasserts ‘…I was barely on speaking terms my father and most of myconversation with…mother were about how I hardly to my father”(2).This is a clear indication of how the author though from a Muslimheritage considers primal his dreams and aspirations. Aspirations anddreams that his heritage and Bruce Springsteen shapes, though weakassimilation and cognitive learning would also seem to shapeManzoor’s experiences. Clearly, the author is torn between his owncultural background values and the values that his father preaches.As such, Manzoor asserts,
[Idefined myself in opposition to my father. All that he believed, thevalues he upheld, the ambitions he cherished I rejected asembarrassing and outdated. When he said he was Pakistani, I declaredI was British…] (6)
Suchassertions that Manzoor cultivates define the conflicting role thathis father plays in his aspirations and achievement. Thiscontradiction shapes the memoir to such an extent that Manzoor feelsaligned to values that his father discredits. As aforementioned, theessences of assimilation play a critical role in the conflictingcircumstances that shape Manzoor’s relationship with his father.Following through the memoirs, one understands that Manzoor dislikeshis father’s principles and despot dictation thus, tries tocultivate a cultural identity that provides happiness and contentmentrather than incorporating ideas that seem so awkward to his ideals.After travelling to Manchester, Manzoor’s desire to be assimilatedin the new culture and to shake off his father’s dominance andinsistence on living the Muslim becomes apparent. Besides going out,listening to the music he wishes and wearing any kind of cloths helikes, Manzoor seems apparently happy to be away from his dictatingfather. He recalls,
InManchester, I was free, I could stay out late, play music as loud asI wished, wear black leather trousers and red velvet shirts and shakemy dreadlocks to Lenny Kravitz.” (2)
Asthe memoir transits to the climax, it is apparent that the author isakin to changes that will have a positive effect on his life thus,embarks on a journey that seeks to cultivate the espousal of Muslimheritage. While his later life is marked with the desire tore-embrace Muslim heritage, it is clear that the author’s firstdays are marked by cultural value conflict and need to be assimilatedin the mainstream society/culture i.e. he tries to redefine hiscultural identity to the Muslim he is, as he suggests later.
Iwas confused he believed in family, I championed the individual…Iconvinced
myselfthat we were so different, the notion that I might have inheritedanything
fromhim appalled me.] (6)
Thesame cultural conflict seems to be apparent to some extent withManzoor’s father. Though Mohammed likes money, much of this is sentback home. However, in contrast to his Muslim heritage, he is asmoker. Manzoorwrites that his father “…was not frittering his wages. His onlyvice was smoking…” (15).
Thebook mirrors the life that Manzoor lives first rebellious, followedby a reflective life and finally the desire to reconcile with hisroots and heritage. This is also reflected in how he interprets thelife of his iconic rock star, Springsteen. To him, the iconicmusician is a representative of all westernized things including butnot limited to freedom, hard work and play. Inhis interview with Wurtzel, Manzoor concludes, “…long held theorythat anyone who likes Bruce Springsteen is by definition a niceperson.” (5). Coupledwith the opening quotes at the start of each sentence, this amicablyindicates that Manzoor himself is a great fun of the iconic star andoften considers their lives alike. For him, however, thereconciliation stage comes too late as his father is on the dying bedand does not manages to witness his son’s success.
Undoubtedly,Manzoor’s memoir is a classic example of how value conflict occursin a multicultural society. For Manzoor, the need to learn and beassimilated in the dominant society first leads to conflicts with hisfather who is adamant that his children stick to Muslim heritage andculture. Before he can actually shake his desire for independence andself-rule, the 9/11 terrorist-attack hits America shaking the authordesire and making him yearn to re-embrace his cultural heritage andmake peace with his past.
Manzoor,Sarfraz. Greetingsfrom Bury Park: race, religion and rock`n`roll.London: Bloomsbury, 2007. Print.