Conditioned by South Asian social and religious traditions, the South Asian British literary arena has long been dominated by prominent male figures such as V. S. Naipaul and Salman Rushdie. However, the end of the twentieth century has witnessed the rising prominence of creative works by women. Many of these have entered the mass cultural imagination and have become highly influential not only in terms of the reformulation of "Britishness," but also as an important and integral part of the South Asian diaspora within the context of global flows. This essay reads Monica Ali's acclaimed debut novel Brick Lane (2003) as a quintessential Bildungsroman focusing on a female immigrant subject and as a representation of the ways in which South Asian women cope with the problems of re/constructing selfhood, subjectivity and South Asian British identity. As such, it focuses on exploring the themes of belated sexual and political awakenings of a Bangladeshi immigrant female protagonist, Nazneen. Since both sexual and political awakenings are still tabooed in Islamic traditions, in the final analysis Ali's novel challenges the traditional definition of South Asian Muslim womanhood and provides a way out of the brick lane of an ethnic ghetto.
- Brick Lane
- Monica Ali
- South Asian British literature
- South Asian diaspora studies
- The female bildungsroman