09 October 2020
Our intern Khadija Osman reviews Hashi Mohamed’s People Like Us, an exploration of equality and social mobility in the UK.
The desk of a Profile Books intern can become quite the dumping ground for books. At any point in the day you could suddenly become entombed if you’re not keeping up with your work so you’re not always taking time to appreciate everything you come across. But Hashi Mohamed’s book stood out to me. There on the paperback cover was an adorable picture of a dark-skinned boy in school uniform sporting a distinctively Somali kind of smile. No offense to you Hashi, I also resembled Bugs Bunny as an infant. It made me smile to see another fateful victim of the East African grin on the cover of a book!
Cracking it open, I wasn’t disappointed. People Like Us talks us through Hashi’s own journey of social mobility, a Somali refugee who entered England as a child and grew to become a No5 Chambers Barrister, and shows us exactly why this story is so uncommon. And while he didn’t just speak about his own experiences (he brings up the plights of multiple groups across class, race and gender) when he did bring it up he spoke about being Somali. He mentioned small things that make up everyday life, like naming conventions and the alphabet, and he talked about the overarching feelings that were affecting a nation in grief and a generation in transit.
But it isn’t a bleak book. It reads as full of love for the people who got him to where he is, through it you’ll see that it truly takes a village, and includes a humility that allows him to explain actionable advice that everyone can use. More than a memoir, this book is an education in the British social systems we navigate day in and day out and shows us how we are personally helping it to thrive. And as much as I loved the familiarity of the book, it is its universal appeal which makes me the most excited to recommend it.
This year has been strange for everyone, loss and upheaval has been felt worldwide but from that has come the launching of a number of important conversations. Seeing everything we thought of as constant change in an instant has shown us that nothing is forever. But it has helped us ask, what do we want to see in our tomorrow? Most people agree that what they want to see is a more equal world, but it’s People Like Us that explains exactly how adverse to that our current society is. So if you are looking to really make that change, to see how far you can take it and whose life you can change along the way, this is the book you’re going to need on your shelf. Read it if it mirrors your own experience, but read it especially if it doesn’t.