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Monica Ali (born October 20, 1967) is a British writer of Bangladeshimarker origin. She is the author of Brick Lane, her debut novel, which was shortlisted for the Man Booker Prize for Fiction in 2003. Ali was voted Granta's Best of Young British Novelists on the basis of the unpublished manuscript.


Ali was born in Dhakamarker, Bangladeshmarker to a Bangladeshi father and Englishmarker mother, moving to Boltonmarker, England at the age of three, where she was raised. Her father is originally from the district of Mymensinghmarker. She went to Bolton Schoolmarker and then studied Philosophy, Politics and Economics at Wadham Collegemarker, Oxfordmarker. She lives in south Londonmarker with her husband, Simon, a management consultant, and their two children, Felix and Shumi.

Brick Lane

Brick Lane — named after Brick Lanemarker, a street at the heart of Londonmarker's Bangladeshi community — follows the life of Nazneen, a Bangladeshi woman who moves to Tower Hamletsmarker in London at the age of 18 — her English consisting of "sorry" and "thank you" — to marry an older man, Chanu, described by The Observer as "one of the novel's foremost miracles: twice her age, with a face like a frog, a tendency to quote Hume and the boundless doomed optimism of the self-improvement junkie, he is both exasperating and, to the reader at least, enormously loveable." Geraldine Bedell wrote in The Observer that the "most vivid image of the marriage is of her [Nazneen] cutting her husband's corns, a task she seems required to perform with dreadful regularity. [Her husband] is pompous and kindly, full of plans, none of which ever come to fruition, and then of resentment at Ignorant Types who don't promote him or understand his quotations from Shakespeare or his Open Universitymarker race, ethnicity and class module".


The novel caused controversy within the Bangladeshi community in Britainmarker because of what certain groups perceived as negative portrayal of people from the Sylhet region, majority of Bangladeshis living in Bricklane are originally from Sylhet, Ali however is from Dhaka. Parts of the community were opposed to plans by Ruby Films to film parts of the novel in the Brick Lane area, and formed the "Campaign Against Monica Ali's Film Brick Lane". The film, starring well-known Indian actress Tannishtha Chatterjee, was successfully made and distributed both in the UK and internationally.

The campaign was allegedly supported by Germaine Greer, who wrote that: "As British people know little and care less about the Bangladeshi people in their midst, their first appearance as characters in an English novel had the force of a defining caricature ... [S]ome of the Sylhetis of Brick Lane did not recognise themselves. Bengali Muslims smart under an Islamic prejudice that they are irreligious and disorderly, the impure among the pure, and here was a proto-Bengali writer with a Muslim name, portraying them as all of that and more." Greer's involvement has angered some within the British literary community. Salman Rushdie has called it "philistine, sanctimonious, and disgraceful, but ... not unexpected".

Activists told The Guardian they intended to burn copies of Ali's book during a rally to be held on July 30, 2006, but the demonstration passed without incident.

Ali herself portrays the elders of the community as reluctant to face criticism of the youth:"There were no gangs at all. The white press had made them up to give Bangladeshis a bad name..." (page 423)

Richard & Judy Bookclub

Although Brick Lane was selected for the first Richard & Judy Book Club in 2004, the Richard and Judy producer, Amanda Ross, has subsequently admitted publicly that she regretted selecting Ali's book for the program. Ali failed to turn up for the book club award ceremony, and Ross claims that Ali was not as supportive of the book club as she would have hoped. Brick Lane is the only book that Ross selected for the book club that she says she didn't believe in.


The book was adapted to a film of the same name in 2007.


Ali opposes the British government's attempt to introduce the Racial and Religious Hatred Act 2006, something she writes about in her contribution to Free Expression Is No Offence, a collection of essays published by Penguin in November 2005.

Her writings are perhaps comparable to those of Bernardine Evaristo, Michel Faber and Abdulrazak Gurnah.



Further reading

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