Kasim Ali’s Good Intentions is undoubtedly one of the most anticipated debuts of the year. A sincere and eye-opening exploration of love, responsibility and being true to yourself beneath the heavy gaze of family and community obligations and expectations.
A heart-wrenching and beautifully told debut novel about love, family obligation and finding your way.
Nur and Yasmina are in love
They’ve been together for four happy years
But Nur’s parents don’t know that Yasmina exists
As Nur’s family counts down to midnight on New Year’s Eve, Nur is watching the clock more closely than most: he has made a pact with himself, and with his girlfriend, Yasmina, that at midnight he will finally tell his Pakistani parents the truth. That he has spent years hiding his personal life from them to preserve his image as the golden child. That he has built a life with a woman he loves and she is Black.
Nur wants to be the good son his parents ask him to be, and the good boyfriend Yasmina needs him to be. But as everything he holds dear is challenged, he is forced to ask, is love really a choice for a second-generation immigrant son like him?
Deftly exploring family obligation and racial prejudice alongside the flush of first love, Good Intentions is a captivating and powerful modern love story that announces a thrilling new voice in British fiction.
What inspired you to start writing Good Intentions?
I was inspired by three separate things: a moment in my childhood where my mother had seen me walking with a Black girl after school and told me I ‘shouldn’t hang out with girls like that’ and realising, years later, she meant Black girls; watching Master of None and being frustrated that the only Muslim narratives I was seeing were ones in which Muslims had to shed Islam and religion to ‘belong’ in a Western world; watching The Big Sick and wanting to see an interracial relationship that had two non-white people in it. These three moments, spread over my life, coalesced into the writing of this book.
What did you find most challenging when writing this story?
The act of writing something I’ve never been in: I have never dated a Black woman. I know Black women, have listened to their stories about dating, have been privy to the intimate details of relationships like this, but I have never been in one. I wanted to write a story that felt authentic and sincere and genuine. I can only hope I’ve succeeded.
There are so many powerful scenes in Good Intentions that help us really understand Nur and Yasmina. Do you have any (non-spoilery) scenes you really enjoyed writing?
I loved writing the second chapter, where Nur and Yasmina meet one another at a university party. It was really funputting myself into that moment and feeling the push-and-pull of certain characters. When reading it back, I always see it in my mind as a one-shot camera take in a film or TV show (let’s hope I can make that happen at some point!).
What is one book you can’t wait to read in 2022?
I’ll give you two: Mohsin Hamid’s The Last White Man, because I’ll read anything Mohsin writes; and Brother Alive by Zain Khalid, a debut from America, which tells the story of three boys who have been adopted by an imam in Staten Island. It’s been described as ‘rigorously intelligent, wholly sensitive, and quietly rebellious’ by Robert Jones Jr.
Last but not least, your must-have when writing, and why?
I can pretty much write anywhere; the other day, I wrote a 6,000 word story on a very loud train with a crying baby and a person who wouldn’t stop narrating the train journey on their phone. The only thing I really need is inspiration – whenever that hits, I’m writing. Frustrating when it hits in the middle of a work day and I’m in a Zoom meeting.
Kasim Ali works at Penguin Random House, and has previously been shortlisted for Hachette’s Mo Siewcherran Prize and longlisted for the 4th Estate BAME Short Story Prize, and has contributed to The Good Journal. He comes from Birmingham and lives in London. His debut novel Good Intentions published March 2022.