Wednesday 27 April 2022

Keeping the House by Tice Cin

Catriona Troth

What We Thought of It:

When Damla’s father is sent to prison, her mother, Ayla, must navigate her way around north London’s Turkish Cypriot drugs trade to make one last deal to keep a roof over her familys heads.

Ayla, far from the helpless little woman the drugs gang initially takes her for, masterminds a slow-burning plan to plant packets of heroin within the hearts of cabbages as they grow, and then smuggle them inside the full-grown vegetables.

What follows, however, is far from a typical crime thriller. The story of the drugs trade is smuggled inside a much larger narrative. Told from the points of view of three generations of Cypriots around the Broadwater Farm estate in Tottenham, it’s an intimate, sometimes funny, sometimes tragic portrait of an immigrant community. It moves backwards and forwards in time between 1999 and 2012, splintering between different perspectives, as if we are peeking in through different windows, catching glimpses of stories that we must stitch together to form the whole.

Damla is having her own (mis)adventures with Cemile, the younger sister of Feliz – a girl so wild she takes the heat off the two younger girls and lets them get away with more than they should. The two are what Cin describes as “under-the-kitchen-table kids” – vaguely neglected; disconnected from their communities without quite knowing why, tumbling into experiences they are not really mature enough to handle.

Tice Cin is poet and digital artist as well as an author. Her prose periodically elides into poetry. Her language is lush: the sounds of it, and the images is conjures, all carefully considered.

Like so many immigrant stories, much revolves around food. Not only the traditional Turkish dishes cooked by Damla’s grandmother (“the meals that slid oil into you, that kept you full when you wanted to eat more but couldn’t.”) but the sticky Panda pop and barbecued ribs Damla buys for her little brother – the foods of their adopted home in north London.

Shortlisted for the 2022 Jhalak Prize.

You’ll Enjoy This If You Loved: You People by Nikita Lalwani, A Cupboard Full of Coats by Yvvette Edwards

Avoid If You Dislike: Fragmented narratives. Stories centred around drug dealing.

Perfect Accompaniment: Helva (tahini-based fudge-like sweet)

Genre: Crime. Literary.

Buy This Book Here

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