Nine-year-old Meena can't wait to grow up and break free from her parents. But as the daughter of the only Punjabi family in the mining village of Tollington, her struggle for independence is different from most.
Meena wants fish fingers and chips, not chapati and dhal; she wants an English Christmas, not the usual interminable Punjabi festivities. But more than anything, she wants to roam the backyards of working-class Tollington with feisty Anita Rutter and her gang.
Blonde, cool, aloof, outrageous and sassy, Anita is everything Meena thinks she wants to be. Meena wheedles her way into Anita's life, but the arrival of a baby brother, teenage hormones, impending entrance exams for the posh grammar school and a motorcycling rebel without a future threaten to turn Anita's salad days sour.
Anita and Me paints a comic, poignant, compassionate and colourful portrait of village life in the era of flares, power cuts, glam rock, decimalisation and Ted Heath. It is a unique vision of a British childhood in the '70s, a childhood caught between two cultures, each on the brink of change.
"Funny, moving and packed full of wonderful surprises." (Esther Freud)
"This is a funny, sad book. It made me long to be a kid again, yet grateful I'd grown up." (Jo Brand)
Anita and Me is full of pleasure. Syal is as skilful at rendering the saucy, ballsy backchat of the Tollington women as she is at describing Meena's 'uncles and aunties', her parents' Indian friends. The book is expertly structured and engagingly written, illuminated throughout by Meena's ironical irreverance and robustness of spirit. I can give it no higher recommendation." (Laura Tennant, Guardian)