Almost one year after being blown away by the film Blinded by the Light, I’ve read Greetings from Bury Park: Race, Religion and Rock ‘n’ Roll (2007), which is the memoir that inspired the film. The title is, of course, a play on words based on the part of Luton, north of London where Manzoor grew up and Springsteen’s New Jersey home town and early album title.
The memoir introduces readers to Sarfraz Manzoor, his family and friends and his experiences growing up, a British Pakistani Muslim living in Luton in the 70’s and 80’s.
Although this book has inspired the film Blinded by the Light, they are actually quite different. The film focuses on a young man’s love of Bruce Springsteen’s music, whereas the memoir concentrates on Manzoor’s upbringing. It is a story of a challenging childhood containing racism, the search for religious and cultural identity, a dysfunctional family and how to fit in.
It was interesting how the memoir was structured. Instead of going in chronological order, each chapter (titled with a Springsteen song) was devoted to a different subject of Manzoor’s life: the relationship with his father, his relationship with his Pakistani Muslim identity, his love life, his deep friendship with Amolak, the Sikh classmate, who introduced him to the music and lyrics of Bruce Springsteen and, of course, the Springsteen anecdotes.
I came to the book expecting fan worship. What I didn’t expect was an entertaining and engaging tale about father -son relationships, readable for anyone. You certainly don’t have to be a Springsteen fan to appreciate it.
Funny side note: the edition of the book I got hold of is a “Klett” edition. Klett is a German Publisher that offers a wide range of school books, software and material for German learners and teacher. “Klett English Editions” are Original literature with annotations – words and phrases explained in footnotes. You learn, for example that a pickle is a “vegetable that has been preserved in vinegar”. Very entertaining! 😁 Interestingly enough it is also listed as an Abiturempfehlung 2021, which means it will be studied in some A-level classes in Germany.