The inspiration for the smash Sundance hit, soon to be a major motion picture, "Blinded by the Light": The acclaimed memoir about the power of Bruce Springsteen's music on a young Pakistani boy growing up in Britain in the 1970s.
Sarfraz Manzoor was two years old when, in 1974, he emigrated from Pakistan to Britain with his mother, brother, and sister. Sarfraz spent his teenage years in a constant battle, trying to reconcile being both British and Muslim, trying to fit in at school and at home. But it was when his best friend introduced him to the music of Bruce Springsteen that his life changed completely. From the age of sixteen on, after the moment he heard the harmonica and opening lines to “The River,” Springsteen became his personal muse, a lens through which he was able to view the rest of his life. Both a tribute to Springsteen and a story of personal discovery, Greetings from Bury Park is a warm, irreverent, and exceptionally perceptive memoir about how music transcends religion and race.
In this uneven memoir, British TV and radio journalist Manzoor describes growing up in Britain in the '70s and '80s by way of his love affair with the music of Bruce Springsteen. Only two years old when he emigrated from Pakistan, Manzoor was torn between the demands of his traditional family and the seductions of mainstream culture. His discovery of Springsteen at age 16 gave Manzoor a personal muse who allowed him to bridge the gulf separating the two worlds. For Manzoor, Springsteen's lyrics about alienation, isolation and generational misunderstandings addressed perfectly his inchoate feelings of rebellion and guilt. In Springsteen Nation, Manzoor found a culture that transcended his own divided loyalties and accepted him as just another fan. It's an intriguing hook, but one Manzoor handles awkwardly. Springsteen barely appears in the first 90 pages or so, which cover the family leaving Pakistan, Manzoor's father's death and his siblings' marriages. The early material seems rushed and is standard immigrant memoir fare tales of suffering in the old country and shame in the new; antipathy toward the stern, workaholic father and the too-late realization of all they had in common. Some of the later episodes such as Manzoor's first trip to America where he sells encyclopedias door-to-door show real energy, but they're a long time coming. The division of the book into semi-discrete essays also tends to rob the narrative of unity and impact, and the 9/11 coda feels tacked on.