What Being Brown in the World Today Means (to Everyone)

Book - 2016
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Winner of the Shaughnessy Cohen Prize for Political Writing

Finalist for the Governor General's Literary Award for Non-fiction and the Trillium Book Award

A Globe and Mail, National Post, Toronto Life, Walrus, CBC Books, Chatelaine, Hill Times, 49th Shelf and Writers' Trust Best Book of the Year

With the urgency and passion of Ta-Nehisi Coates (Between the World and Me), the seductive storytelling of J.D. Vance (Hillbilly Elegy) and the historical rigour of Carol Anderson (White Rage), Kamal Al-Solaylee explores the in-between space that brown people occupy in today's world: on the cusp of whiteness and the edge of blackness. Brown proposes a cohesive racial identity and politics for the millions of people from the Global South and provides a timely context for the frictions and anxieties around immigration and multiculturalism that have led to the rise of populist movements in Europe and the election of Donald Trump.

At once personal and global, Brown is packed with storytelling and on-the-street reporting conducted over two years in ten countries on four continents that reveals a multitude of lives and stories from destinations as far apart as the United Arab Emirates, the Philippines, the United States, Britain, Trinidad, France, Hong Kong, Sri Lanka, Qatar and Canada. It features striking research about the emergence of brown as the colour of cheap labor and the pursuit of a lighter skin tone as a global status symbol. As he studies the significance of brown skin for people from North Africa and the Middle East, Mexico and Central America, and South and East Asia, Al-Solaylee also reflects on his own identity and experiences as a brown-skinned person (in his case from Yemen) who grew up with images of whiteness as the only indicators of beauty and success.

This is a daring and politically resonant work that challenges our assumptions about race, immigration and globalism and recounts the heartbreaking stories of the people caught in the middle.

Publisher: Toronto : HarperCollins Ltd., 2016.
Edition: First Canadian edition.
ISBN: 9781443441438
Characteristics: 326 pages ; 24 cm


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SquamishLibraryStaff May 19, 2017

What does it mean to be ‘brown’ in the world today? The undocumented, the exploited, the legal and illegal migrants, the worker bees or modern day slaves of the world with little or no rights. A dismal look at how skin colour matters in the world’s hierarchy especially in the age of capitalism. Reading the chapter about migrant workers in Qatar is like entering a YA dystopian novel. A fascinating and eye opening read.

Feb 02, 2017

This was an eye opening read that delivered on its promise and brought to light issues I hadn't considered before. This will be one of my top recommended reads for anyone (and everyone) interested in the anthropology of our modern (and future) world.

Dec 11, 2016

This book is outstanding and so well researched. I have never thought of so many different aspects of the color brown, and so many challenges, concerns and hopes associated with it. I would define it as an academic read that requires your full engagement and attention to be able to truly appreciate all the nuances.

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