Monica Ali was born in 1967 to an English mother and a Bengali father in Dhaka in what is now Bangladesh. When the Civil War broke out there in 1971 the family moved to England. Ali grew up in Bolton near Manchester and studied Philosophy, Politics and Economics at Oxford. After completing her studies she worked in publishing and marketing. Following the birth of her second child she began work on her first novel »Brick Lane« (2003). This book led to the literature magazine »Granta« placing her in its list of the »20 best young British novelists«. The novel was met with great acclaim by critics and readers alike, becoming an international bestseller that has since been translated into over twenty languages.
»Brick Lane« depicts the development of the Muslim woman Nazneen who at the age of 19 comes from rural Bangladesh to London to enter an arranged marriage with a man twice her age. Unlike her rebellious, younger sister, with whom she maintains regular contact through letters, Nazneen initially views it as pointless to resist her fate, and launches herself into the servile role of wife and mother. However, over the course of the novel the protagonist grows into an independent woman. She learns English from her daughters, finds work in a textile factory and falls in love with a political activist. When her disillusioned husband finally decides he wants to move back to Bangladesh, she instead opts for an independent life in England – without her husband and also without her lover.
From the perspective of her background as a person of mixed ethnicity, Ali succeeds in creating a realistic and believable portrayal of Bengali immigrants caught between tradition and integration. The development of the themes of cultural identity, religious fanaticism and racial unrest in the novel made it highly relevant to the current British public debate on immigration.
Ali has moved the setting of her second novel »Alentejo Blue« (2006) to Portugal, and describes life in the picturesque village of Mamarrosa viewed from the perspectives of various different characters. The plans, dreams and fears of younger and older villagers, tourists and expatriates who congregate there are recounted in a series of episodes. Ali was honoured with the Newcomer of the Year Prize of the British Book Awards as well as the WH Smith People’s Choice Award. She was nominated for the Guardian First Book Award, the Man Booker Prize and the George Orwell Prize for political writing. The author lives with her husband and two children in London.
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