Disgraced by Saira Ahmed Headline HK$175 They say a different world lurks behind the net curtains of your neighbours' windows. Long have writers set intrigue, incest or murder in the shadows of the suburbs, hidden behind the veil of respectability. For Saira Ahmed, her parents' desperate desire to conform to their traditional Pakistani ways - despite having moved from a rural Asian village to a city in northern England - meant locking away their women, encouraging segregation, marrying off daughters at barely legal age to cousins and uncles 'back home' and pandering to favoured sons who later turned to drugs and crime. Disgraced, Ahmed's account of her childhood (and later life) in her repressive, isolated family with control-freak father and brothers is a startling and eye-opening story of all that goes wrong when immigrant communities fail to mix or adapt to their new surroundings. Typically it is those from rural, patriarchal backgrounds and with little education who seem to suffer most in their new countries. And the women sit at the bottom of the pile. Ahmed describes an author-itarian household, everyone working for an uncle in a garment factory; her mother is brought from Pakistan and forced to marry a man 20-odd years her senior (Ahmed's father) who is bored with his first wife. Between her father's beatings it is her mother who performs the dominant role in her life: constantly exhausted from work and looking after the family, subjected to torment from other women jealous of her looks, she maintains a rule of iron. Ahmed is not allowed to cut her hair, must wear clothes made from factory cast-offs and is denied the chance to wear a proper bra or use deodorant, unlike the other girls at school. Brothers stop her speaking to boys or playing with white girls her age - yet when left alone the brothers touch her, grope her breasts or try to kiss her. This image of sexual repression is disturbing. Women and sisters are to be kept 'pure' as ideal marriage material. These virginal daughters are chattels to be bartered as status symbols between families and clans and woe betide their falling in love with anyone else: Ahmed's innocent kisses with another boy see him viciously beaten by an enraged brother, then Ahmed is whisked to Pakistan and into marriage to a cousin. (Her brothers see nothing wrong in using drugs or prostitutes, even when they too are married.) Ahmed's journey spins off into rape, escape, hiding from murderous relatives and a descent into prostitution to pay her parents' and her brothers' drug-related debts. The hypocrisy and double standards of the family and community are breathtaking, almost absurd. She cannot tell them her 'profession' yet her relations rely on her for their survival. Causes for optimism arrive in the shape of a child and the chance to begin a career. Heart-rending and honest, Disgraced reveals more about life in Islamic communities than any number of commentators and apologists ever could.