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If like me, you missed this bad boy and bad bad girl turned good, at the much acclaimed Stoke Newington Literary Festival in June, here is another chance to see both authors read from their latest offerings, at Stoke Newington Library Gallery.
Farah reads from her raw and no holes barred autobiography, Try Me. Her story starts in Uganda and is told through the eyes of a child. We follow her journey to England, prior to Idi Amin’s forced Exodus and the angst of being the only non-white child in an English private school. While her parents are busy building their empire, the writer finds her identity is shaped by her experiences, rather than her culture to which she only had loose ties.
A difficult adolescence sees her leave home as soon as she is legal at 18, to travel to New York where she is part of high society and lives a glamorous life. Ultimately the “guest shaped hole” inside her expands and swallows her up, she ventures down a path of self-destruction.
Her life becomes entangled within the social set of boldface gossip column names and the shadowy world of New York’s underworld and drug abuse, and she ends up in the notorious New York prison, Rikers’ Island.
Farah comes back to London in 1995 and restarts her life but the ingrained urge to self-annihilate leads her to make ridiculous choices, commit crimes and go astray again.
From becoming an important, emerging voice in British media, she ends up in prison for twenty one months for charges including perverting the course of justice and theft. Friends and family become enemies, enemies become allies and lovers; nothing in life or in the version of her story, which was followed by the international media is what it seems.
“The truth” she says “is just an agreed upon set of lies.” Try Me – a powerful tale of sex, lies and culture. Never self-pitying or indulgent, this is a modern woman’s journey to reclaim her self and her life.
It has been noted Farah sabotaged her own efforts; she seemed to declare that even self-destruction was her own prerogative, since self-destructiveness is the final assertion of absolute individuality. Farah is a coloured woman living the anti-coloured woman’s life. In doing so, she demonstrates that both white and coloured remain imprisoned in public, antiquated definitions of who we must be as individuals. As such, her narrative has the power to set everyone free everywhere. Male. Female. Non-criminal.
“Try Me” was described by London’s Evening Standard as “An autobiography that shocks, appalls, sucks one into its consistently amoral world and then spits one out at the end dry-mouthed. Damji’s book is intelligent, gutsy, full of paradox, and quite unlike any other account of the immigrant experience. ”
for more about Try Me
Former Stock Broker turn drug King Pin reads from his jail house memoir – Hard Time, A Brit in America’s Toughest jail.
Using a golf pencil sharpened on a cell wall, Shaun Attwood wrote one of the first prison blogs, “Jon’s Jail Journal”, excerpts of which were published in “The Guardian” and attracted international media attention. Brought up in England, Shaun took his bus…iness degree to Phoenix, Arizona, where he became an award winning stockbroker and then a millionaire day trader during the dot-com bubble. But Shaun also led a double life.
An early fan of the rave scene in Manchester, he formed an organisation that threw raves and distributed Class A drugs. Before being convicted of money laundering and drug dealing, he served 26 months in the infamous jail system run by the notorious Sheriff Joe Arpaio.
“Hard Time” is the harrowing yet often darkly humorous account of the time Shaun spent submerged in a nightmarish world of gang violence, insect infested cells and food unfit for animals. His remarkable story provides a revealing glimpse into the tragedy, brutality, comedy and eccentricity of prison life.
“Hard Time” begins with a SWAT team smashing Shaun’s door down. Initially, Shaun goes into shock as he enters a world where gang members dictate who lives and dies, the cells are infested with cockroaches, and the food has dead rats in it. But with the love and support of his family and girlfriend, Claudia, he slowly adapts.
Other prisoners Shaun meets on his journey tell their stories. His large and fearless friend from childhood, Wild Man, pops up all over the place with his unique brand of chaos.
The letters he writes home, which make his family both laugh and cry, tell such a graphic tale that his parents encourage him to write more to document his incarceration. Towards the end of his stay and with the help of his family, he starts the blog, “Jon’s Jail Journal”, to expose the conditions and human rights violations.
“Hard Time” is much more than an exposé of Sheriff Joe Arpaio’s jail system – it’s a cautionary tale for young people worldwide about the consequences of getting involved in drugs and crime.
Date: 23 August 2010
Venue: 184 Stoke Newington Church Street, London N16, 0JS