Congratulations to Sheereen Khan runner up in our inaugural memoir competition, judged by Cathy Rentzenbrink. Sheereen was also awarded a bursary entry to the competition which helped make it all possible.
Sheereen’s memoir Belonging, Biryani and Bacon demonstrates how food was the glue in the marriage between her white, Irish, Catholic mother and brown, Muslim, Indian father. It was the entry point for learning about their different backgrounds, customs and beliefs.
The food feels a clever and organic way to discuss the culture clashes. I loved reading about colcannon and dahl, their differing attitudes to everything, and about the author trying to crochet her two cultures together.
We asked Sheereen to tell us more about her writing journey.
Straddling two worlds
Straddling two worlds has been a strong theme in my life; a theme which kept recurring. A sense of belonging or not belonging shadowed me. This wasn’t always someone else’s fault. It was a rough spot inside of me which could easily be touched. Becoming older has given distance from what went before and to view it through more understanding eyes.
Unintentional trail blazers
My parents were unintentional trail blazers in their time. Yet their struggles, their lack of understanding of each other’s culture and religion may still play out in many mixed relationships.
Hidden like unpolished jewels
I was stunned by how much was inside of me by way of things I heard, noticed and actions performed. They were dormant, hidden like unpolished jewels or precious memorabilia I had stored away and forgotten I owned. Despite being one of four children, my brothers don’t recognise the parents I describe. In a way, we all have different parents.
Gave me confidence
Writing was in the family insofar as it wasn’t unusual to hear the words, ‘I’ve written a piece’ or ‘I’m writing a book’. At one time, there were five journalists in the wider family so seeing a relative’s name in print didn’t make it special. It was expected. It was normal and it gave me confidence. From my twenties through to my mid-thirties, I did PR and was an on and off freelance journalist.
I can’t not write
I feel validated and more confident about my writing. It’s like being in love with someone and them saying they love you too. I can’t not write. I get up each day, sit down and hope.
Tell your story
I want to develop out the question of how families formed of different religions, or cultures or two different races make it work. If you feel there is an aspect of your family which has a strong story, then tell it. It doesn’t have to be miserable, it doesn’t have to be extraordinary but it does have to inform the reader of how it has affected you, good or bad and sometimes both.
Massive flag wave
The Bridport Prize has a good standing in the literary world and the support and encouragement was extraordinary right from the moment of call-out for submissions. This will be a massive flag to wave in front of agents and publishers.