Ours Are the Streets  by Sunjeev Sahota
(Picador, 2011)

Ours Are the Streets

by Sunjeev Sahota

I’m having to stop myself from reading back through what I’ve written. Keep myself going forward. Need to get to the end.

Imtiaz Raina, born in Sheffield, young father, young husband, son of loving parents, has decided to die. He has convinced himself that he believes in his cause. And before he leaves home for a final time, he wants to be sure his family understand why. So he decides to write for them, to leave his journey behind. Raw, funny, tender, furious, vulnerable, selfish, desperate, proud: this is his story. From the grey hills of Sheffield to the mountainous border of Afghanistan, it’s a story about a longing for acceptance that becomes so extreme he will stop at nothing. It’s a story about grief, about belonging, about being lost. It’s the story behind the news story. A story for our times.


A moral work of real intelligence and power. ”
- John Burnside, the Times
Extraordinary. With unnerving control, Sahota casts us into the tormented mind of his narrator, Imtiaz, a second-generation immigrant who marries (and has a child with) an English woman before embracing extremism on a visit to Kashmir. Sahota avoids many of the clichés of radicalisation - he presents Imtiaz as spurred less by religious conviction than a desperate desire to belong - and the narrative contains many beautiful, well-honed images. ”
- Will Skidelsky, the Observer
It is refreshing that while Imtiaz is politicised, the book never takes on the angry, pedagogic tone of a newspaper column. It is a sad, nuanced, psychological meditation of the road to a fanaticism that resembles mental disorder. What is also evident is Sahota's ability to write lyrically, and with great literary promise. ”
- Arifa Akbar, the Independent
This is accurate analysis, as relevant to certain natives of the rapidly transforming Muslim world as to those transplanted abroad, of the felt loss of belonging, the aching absence of a "real past", and the corresponding urge to build a substitute narrative... Ours Are the Streets has a sprightly pace, rich characterisation and a distinct voice, and its scenes are tightly controlled. ”
- Robin Yassin-Kassab, the Guardian
The book’s great force lies in its voice: that of a young man straining to express instincts, fears and emotional conflicts almost beyond his vocabulary. Sahota, who grew up in the same area as some of the men who carried out the 7/7 bombings, lines his prose with colloquialisms, slang and Punjabi turns of phrase, lending his writing a distinctive vibrancy. ”
- Mary Fitzgerald, the Observer
Finely observed, the novel reads like a coming-of-age tale with added suicide vests, which perhaps only deepens its poignancy.”
- Alex Rayner, The Guardian
The strength of Sahota's novel is that it does not attempt to justify his character's choices. Rather, the interest lies in the exploration of Imtiaz's decisions; and even at the last he is left searching for meaning. ”
- The Times