If You Don't Know Me By Now: A Memoir of Love, Secrets and Lies in Wolverhampton
“Stop laughing so much. You’ll only cry twice as much later”, my mother says. Mum is never more anxious than at a celebration, hovering around us with red chillies to frighten away evil spirits. I hate that I’ve inherited this attitude: sometimes I can feel the end of good things before I’ve even had a chance to enjoy them. But finally I understand why my mother was so fond of the phrase: that’s how life was for her. For years, for every one shot of happy, there would be two shots of sad.
When Sathnam Sanghera was twenty-four years old he made a discovery about his family that would both darken, and illuminate his life. It would set him on a journey into his family’s past: from his father’s harsh life in rural Punjab, to the terrifying early years of his parents’ marriage in England; from his mother’s extraordinary resilience as she brought up her young family in a foreign land, without any knowledge of its language, to the author’s happy memories of his own childhood—his obsessions with George Michael and a desire to have the perfect top knot. And, most affectingly of all, this discovery would finally force Sanghera’s own secret life into the glaring light: his longing for romantic love which he had, for fear of family rejection, kept utterly hidden from his beloved mother.
From Hindu hairdressers to the Wolverhampton tourist office, from terrifying violence to boundless family loyalty, If You Don’t Know Me by Now is a heart-rending account of one family’s unimaginable suffering and also its great capacity for love. In a voice that is by turns tender and wonderfully funny, Sathnam Sanghera tells a story of the seemingly unbridgeable, and often harrowing, gulf between classes, cultures and generations and also provides a moving testament to the surprising power of unconditional love.