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Book Review Britain’s diversity pictured without fear or favour

JOHN GREEN recommends a book that ought to studied and discussed in every school classroom in the land

This Separated Isle
Edited by Paul Sng
Policy Press, £16

THIRTY-THREE beautifully photographed portraits accompany insightful interviews in this well-designed book, which brings together an eclectic range of individuals living in Britain today.

They come from the most diverse backgrounds, children of mixed marriages, first and second generation immigrants, white indigenous, Scottish, Welsh and English.

In her introduction Kit de Waal writes critically: “So many people in this book are unseen by a society that has become increasingly fixated on notions of its own history and identity, a society that wants to bask in the white light of its former glory while smothering any attempt to examine it too closely or at all.”

Looking at these evocative images and reading the views of those featured, should disabuse anyone of such inward-focused thinking.

These brief but illuminating interviews will undoubtedly give the reader a keen sense of the breadth of ethnic and cultural variety gathered together in this small island. They demonstrate the multiplicity of voices and identities.

The book also belies any utopian idea of Britain as a comfortable, multicultural “community,” presenting us with disparate and very individual voices.

But it also gives us a deeper understanding of, and empathy with, a wider humanity that binds us all together.

Reading about these experiences can only encourage more tolerance of those who are deemed to be different.

Many who speak here also reveal how the whole contentious Brexit debate has led to increased xenophobia and intolerance of “the other” — a very worrying sign.

What also comes across strongly, is that most of those interviewed, irrespective of background or race, feel in very much British and have an allegiance to the country in which they live, but they are also proud of, and maintain strong links to, the countries they or their parents came from.

It should be a book that is studied and discussed in every school classroom.

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