Tottenham Boys

The fate of immigrant literature is often the same as that of immigrants. They are neither accepted in the country they are in, nor in their homeland. It is a literature stuck in between. It is treated like a stepchild in the homeland if written in the mother tongue while it is treated likewise in the country of immigration if written in that language.

Although immigrant writers are more skilled in establishing a new language universe with the experience of living in different cultures, it is much more difficult for them to make themselves accepted. Only those language workers who are stubborn and persistent in this issue can accomplish this. Dursaliye Şahan, one of these stubborn writers, has been writing stories and novels for many years by blending  the migration experience of the society she lives in as well as her own migration story with the socio-cultural structure and traditions of the lands she left behind. Dursaliye Şahan’s novel, entitled Tottenham Boys, begins with a journalist woman (the novel’s narrator) meeting Keko (Ali Kemal) by chance on a bus in London. Most of the novel takes place in Turkey. In these parts, we learn about the traditional values ​​of the society in which Keko grew up in Turkey.

 Meanwhile, Keko in London is one of the dozens of young people who fell into the trap of the drug gang. In this novel, the author gives place to the suicides of young people witnessed in the Turkish community in London as well as to the social, political, economic and traditional relations behind them. This is where the name Tottenham Kids comes from. In this novel,  Şahan reveals the chain of relations behind the reality of the gang in London.

In this respect, the novel can also be examined from the perspective of gender. The traditional family and tribal structure that Keko is in is nothing but an order where women have no say and submit to their fate. Indeed, the author constantly demonstrates this. These values ​​sometimes lead to conflicts between fathers and sons. For example, Keko constantly clashes with his father and is beaten by him so that he goes to Istanbul and studies there. In fact, he is hastily engaged by her family at a young age so that he can return as soon as possible.

One of the issues placed at the centre of the novel is political conflicts. The conflicts and crises going on in Turkey are kept alive in the flow of the novel through such factors as Keko’s Kurdish identity, his family and his tribe being caught in the middle of the conflict between the government and PKK, his father being made a village guard by force and his being murdered.

The fact that Keko’s peasant and Kurdish identity didn’t let go of him even in the private school where he studied on scholarship, and the constant humiliation by the students in this school can be regarded as the author’s reference to class discrimination. In the novel,  Teacher Fatih, his teacher at the school in the village, who has an important role in Keko’s education, and  Teacher Hayrettin, who watches over him at the private school, represent the idealistic teacher type in the novel.

Through Keko’s story in Tottenham Boys, Dursaliye Şahan touches on one of the neglected aspects of the migration issue, namely the socio-political relations behind migration. In summary, the author in this novel gives the reader the message that leaving the lands behind where they used to be in conflicts means not that they have also left the problems behind, but on the contrary, that they have carried those problems along the way as well as their values to the place of immigration where they are bound to welcome a new set of other conflicts and problems.