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.
APPLE BOOKS REVIEW
Yemen-born Canadian journalist Kamal Al-Solaylee set himself a colossal task: investigating what it means to have brown skin in the contemporary world. He visits 10 countries across four continents, speaking with Filipina nannies in Hong Kong, Arab immigrants in France, and undocumented Latino workers in America. Brown deftly examines how people of colour have been exploited for labour and mined for political ammunition. But Al-Solaylee also explores his interviewees’ personal stories in moving and surprising ways, exposing things like their individual biases, anxieties about deportation, and longing for the privileges of whiteness.