By the author of the Canada Reads finalist and bestselling Intolerable comes a book about the meaning of being brown
Finalist for the 2016 Governor General's Award for Non-Fiction
Brown is not white. Brown is not black. Brown is an experience, a state of mind. Historically speaking, issues of race and skin colour have been interpreted along black and white lines, leaving out millions of people whose stories of migration and racial experiences have shaped our modern world. In this new book by Kamal Al-Solaylee¸ whose bestselling Intolerable was a finalist for Canada Reads and for the Hilary Weston Writers’ Trust Nonfiction Prize and won the Toronto Book Award, fills in the narrative gap by taking a global look at the many social, political, economic and personal implications of being a brown-skinned person in the world now. Brown people have emerged as the source of global cheap labour (Hispanics or South Asians) while also coming under scrutiny and suspicion for their culture and faith (Arabs and Muslims). To be brown is to be on the cusp of whiteness and on the edge of blackness.
Brown is packed with storytelling and on-the-street reporting conducted over two years in 10 countries from four continents that reveals a multitude of lives and stories from destinations as far apart as the United Arab Emirates, Philippines, Britain, Trinidad, France, Hong Kong, Sri Lanka, Qatar, the United States, and Canada. It contains striking research about immigration, workers’ lives and conditions, and the pursuit of a lighter shade of brown as a global status symbol. It is also a personal book, as the author studies the significance of brown skin for those whose countries of origin include North Africa and the Middle East, Mexico and Central America, and South and East Asia, he also reflects on his own identity and experiences as a brown-skinned person (in his case from Yemen) who has grown up with images of whiteness as the only indicators of beauty and desire.
“In this extraordinary book, Kamal Al-Solaylee gives a name, an identity and a story to the disparate billions whose labours, migrations and struggles define our time. A stirring narrative, an empowering manifesto and an unprecedented bid for recognition. This book will change the way you see the world.”
“Brown is a riveting exploration of the ambiguities of race and a window on a multitude of worlds. It’s also thoroughly researched, beautifully argued, and written with grace and clarity.”
“Brown explores wide-ranging issues of race with humanity and grace. . . . Al-Solaylee is a splendid writer, achieving in Brown that rare feat: a work that is clear and complex, elegant and heartfelt.”
“Thoughtful and refreshing, Brown has a chance to become a made-in-Canada intellectual landmark.”
“Brown is a work of such intelligence, depth, uniqueness and compassion. . . . A rare accomplishment--a glimpse into another world from within that world. Masterful, original, insightful and ultimately essential reading.”
“Needless to say, this book becomes increasingly important.”
“Impressive and expansive . . . essential reading, not only for brown people seeking connection or explanation, but for anyone with any stake in understanding the non-white world.”
“A masterful fusion of Al-Solaylee’s own observations, anecdotes from his interview subjects and analysis . . . Brown reads almost like an identity-politics thriller, as vivid as it is informative . . . one of those important books that will stay with you.”
“Kamal Al-Solaylee has written one of the most important books to come out of Toronto this year. . . A fascinating read.”
“Kamal Al-Solaylee perfectly captures the beauty and heartbreak of being brown. This ambitious and powerful book is mandatory reading for anyone who wants to understand the complexities of race relations in our globalized world. You’ll never see a brown person in the same way again.”
“Brown is audacious and original, heartfelt and intrepid. By going behind the scaffolding, Kamal Al-Solaylee raises important questions about the hidden foundations of our unfolding century.”