Tante Ulrikkes vei

Tante Ulrikkes veiTante Ulrikkes vei by Zeshan Shakar
Publisher: Gyldendal
Released: September 14, 2017
Pages: 432
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«Det skjer ikke da. Jeg liker ikke skriving. Hvert fall ikke skrive dagbok ass. Det er for kæber, mann. Jeg snakker isteden ass. Men ok, ja ass, jeg er Jamaal. Svarting, muslim, fra Stovner, T.U.V, Tante Ulrikkes vei, du veit, representerer alltid.»

«Det er tradisjon å kalle den førstefødte Mohammed, og Profeten er alle muslimers forbilde, men liksom, de som er så opptatt av at jeg skal komme ut dit og få en fin jobb og alt det der, jeg skjønner ikke hvorfor de ga meg det navnet.»

Det er Norge på 2000-tallet. To gutter vokser opp i Tante Ulrikkes vei på Stovner i Oslo. Foreldrene hadde et håp. Selv står de midt i brytningen mellom drabantbyen og storsamfunnet, mellom vaskehallen og studentkantina, karakterer og keef.

I was about a year late to the Tante Ulrikkes vei party, but having spent that year reading pieces about how good this book was, I was very happy to find that it lived up to the expectations I had been given of it.

Tante Ulrikkes vei is told through emails and recordings sent to a researcher by two boys with immigrant backgrounds who are growing up in the Eastern part of Oslo, in an area where a high density of the population have an immigrant background. The boys share stories from their lives, including experiences and challenges they had when growing up. The two boys are the same age, and live on the same street, but their lives are very different, and take different turns over the five years the story is told over.

I don’t know much about the author, but given that he grew up in the area where the two boys from the novel are growing up, I think it’s safe to assume that it’s heavily based on first or second-hand experience. There is something predictably, and sadly, eye-opening about how societal stigma and racism makes this book much less relatable than a book about someone growing up in the same country I grew up in, in the same city that I currently live in, should be. That said, this isn’t a book about stigma or racism other than it being an inevitable backdrop to the stories that are taking place. A few historical events take place during the course of the five years in which this book is set, and it’s interesting to see how they change the dynamics of what’s going on. It had me thinking back to the time and events mentioned in this book, grasping for my own memories and thoughts about them, and the similarities, but mostly differences, between how I saw them and how the characters in this book see them.

Even when setting aside everything that makes this book interesting, Tante Ulrikkes vei is a great coming of age novel in its own right, and strikes all the notes a good coming of age novel should strike. The emotions and situations felt real, I cared about the characters, and wanted to keep reading to find out what would happen to them next. As a debut novel, this book is remarkable, and I expect that the book will, deservedly, continue to be regarded as a classic within contemporary Norwegian literature.

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