Shantytown Kid by Azouz Begag

Book Report/Review
Pages 7 (1757 words)
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Shantytown Kid is the childhood memoir of Azouz Begag, the first North African immigrant cabinet minister of France. Begag was born to Algerian immigrants in France and wrote this autobiography in 1986 in almost his thirtieth year, by which time he had already become one of a handful of successful immigrants to have risen to positions of power.


The story covers the period of Begag's life from childhood to early youth: his origins and his childhood in a bidonville or a shantytown suburb, colloquially called Le Chaaba, outside of Lyon. Here the difficult living conditions are described with humor and painful nostalgia. Poverty and social marginalization are typical of the living conditions experienced by these Algerian immigrants in France. The book starkly describes Begag's childhood in the slums and banlieues (suburbs) where Maghrebi (North African) immigrants like young Begag live on the literal and figurative edges of French society. Here, hovels of hastily-piled wood make up houses with no electricity, water, sewerage or proper codes of health and sanitation. Life in the tin shacks and empty lots is described in repulsive detail, with the highlight of the boys' days being rummaging through a fresh garbage dump for interesting things, which they consider "piles of treasure". The children are also expected to work in the market to earn money to help their parents.
Begag's childhood is full of contrasting images of sweet dreams for the future and harsh realities of the present. Most of his dreams originate from the books he buys every Sunday at the flea market, being encouraged by his father. ...
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