'Keep me out of your novels': Hanif Kureishi's sister has had enough

Hanif Kureishi has made a habit of attacking relatives in print – and his latest book is noexception. It's time to stop, says the novelist's outraged sister, Yasmin Kureishi

So there is a new novel out by my brother called Something to Tell You. I was, of course, relieved to learn from a recent review that the central character's sister wasn't based on me, but appears to be another family member. There is quite a bevy of us now – my mother and father in The Buddha of Suburbia; Uncle Omar, portrayed as an alcoholic in a bedsit in My Beautiful Laundrette, then lauded in Hanif's memoir, My Ear at his Heart; an ex-girlfriend, Sally, who renamed his film Sammy and Rosie Get Laid as "Hanif Gets Paid, Sally gets Exploited". A semi-autobiographical novel, Intimacy (1998) centred around a man leaving his wife and kids for a younger woman. Tracey Scoffield, his ex-partner ("the wife") was not impressed. She stated that the book wasn't a novel: "You may as well call it a fish." There are probably many more...

And then there is me... Ouch! The sister, Paula, in the film The Mother (2003) – a particularly spiteful portrayal, via an amazingly insipid, two-dimensional character. Perhaps the viciousness is not on a par with that dished out in Hanif's novel Intimacy; however, in a singularly nasty twist, Scoffield was the producer of the BBC film, and must presumably must known darn well what she was doing – must have known that my life was out there being assassinated in the cause of "art". Her apparent collusion with Hanif was not a dignified move.

Anyhow, in celluloid, there was my life at the time up on screen: single parent, teacher, a son, feckless boyfriend (well, one or two, though none of them went for my mother, nor were they Daniel Craig, who played the part in the film). And there was the writing group, though I wouldn't give my brother the satisfaction of burning my writing, as Paula did in the film. It made excruciating viewing. It was like he'd swallowed some of my life, then spat it back out. I got the video from my mother when I heard what the storyline was – mother screws the daughter's boyfriend. I knew the daughter was me.

I watched The Mother on a portable television (the smaller the screen the better). I watched it in two parts, over two evenings. After part one, I thought it couldn't get worse, but it did. It was kind of freaky to me, that someone so successful should seemingly feel that threatened by me, that obsessed.

And now it is happening again, in the form of cheap jibes. Hanif said in an interview in The Telegraph recently, where I was referred to as "an aspiring writer": "But you can always rely on her for a letter to a newspaper. That's the extent of her writing ability." So here I am again being slagged off.

It seems rather ironic that Hanif's latest book should centre on psychoanalysis, because I'm afraid I've always been his emotional dustbin. And now (perhaps because he doesn't speak to me) he's using the media to play out his game of bullying and intimidation. He only does "hate" with me, always has, always will; even when we were speaking, it was always there festering, like some psychotic cocktail. I'm surprised he hasn't resolved those issues around sibling rivalry with his analyst. Think Dorothy Rowe's sister and sadly you have my brother. The psychologist says in her book about sibling rivalry, My Dearest Enemy, My Dangerous Friend: "All siblings in a position similar to mine, and there are a great number of us, find ourselves in a power struggle where we are in double jeopardy: first, the ordinary power struggle between two siblings; second, the undeserved revenge for something which we had been powerless to prevent." Put this together with my brother's access to the media, his ruthlessness and my powerlessness, and I'm in an awful position.

As for the "aspiring writer" tag, it's the first I've heard of it. It is hard to resist the allure of the Biro if you've been brought up by someone like my father. Hanif should know. His lure was potent. He was the father who sat me on his knee when I was four or five and read Oscar Wilde stories to me. For my birthday he used to give me novels by Jean Rhys, Balzac, Camus. He introduced me to RK Narayan, Thackeray, Rabindranath Tagore and Dickens... These are truly great gifts. And he never stopped encouraging me to write, though my resistance was often formidable.

I have written "stuff" from time to time. But I'm not aspiring – I write, sometimes, between looking after my three-year-old twins, nagging my 19-year-old, working as a teacher, doing the washing and so on. Perhaps I'm doing a bit more lately. And big brother doesn't like it. How pathetic. He isn't entitled to sole ownership of the Biro. Nor should he expect to be able to just trample over others like a greedy shopper at the first day of the sales, rifling though the gear for the best bargains to enhance his own image. I'm sorry, but that isn't art.

Oddly enough, my brother seems always to have loathed the idea of me writing. I remember a few years ago, after my father died, I'd won a competition for a play I wrote, and Hanif told me I should give up writing. I've always felt that he can't stand the thought that I might be any good, might be better than him.

Germaine Greer said recently: "It's getting harder and harder to be a real person. You used to have to die before assorted hacks started munching your remains and modelling a new version of you out of their own excreta." You don't even have to be famous these days.

I would have liked not to have written this, to be able to get on in my own way with my own life, but I know the insults, the remarks, will keep coming. I don't want to be seen as "good" in the preachy sense. I do believe that writers should be able to take from their experiences. But I don't think they should use their "art" to be malicious, or to settle scores, or to rewrite history without any regard for others. That is simply an abuse of privilege.

Hanif Kureishi's 'Something to Tell You', out on Thursday, is published by Faber and Faber, priced £16.99

Arts and Entertainment
Art on their sleeves: before downloads and streaming, enthusiasts used to flick through racks of albums in their local record shops
musicFor Lois Pryce, working in a record shop was a dream job - until the bean counters ruined it
Arts and Entertainment
Serial suspect: the property heir charged with first-degree murder, Robert Durst
TV review
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Arts and Entertainment

ebooksNow available in paperback
Arts and Entertainment

Arts and Entertainment
Igarashi in her

Art Megumi Igarashi criticises Japan's 'backwards' attitude to women's sexual expression

Arts and Entertainment
Could Ed Sheeran conquer the Seven Kingdoms? He could easily pass for a Greyjoy like Alfie Allen's character (right)

tv Singer could become the most unlikely star of Westeros

Arts and Entertainment
Beyonce, Boris Johnson, Putin, Nigel Farage, Russell Brand and Andy Murray all get the Spitting Image treatment from Newzoids
tvReview: The sketches need to be very short and very sharp as puppets are not intrinsically funny
Arts and Entertainment
Despite the controversy it caused, Mile Cyrus' 'Wrecking Ball' video won multiple awards
musicPoll reveals over 70% of the British public believe sexually explicit music videos should get ratings
Arts and Entertainment
Lena Headey as Cersei Lannister and Ian Beattie as Meryn Trant in the fifth season of Game of Thrones

Arts and Entertainment

book review
Arts and Entertainment
It's all in the genes: John Simm working in tandem with David Threlfall in 'Code of a Killer'

TV review
Arts and Entertainment
Far Right and Proud: Reggies Yates' Extreme Russia

TV review
Arts and Entertainment
Kanye West was mobbed in Armenia after jumping into a lake

Arts and Entertainment
The show suffers from its own appeal, being so good as to create an appetite in its viewers that is difficult to sate in a ten episode series

Game of Thrones reviewFirst look at season five contains some spoilers
Arts and Entertainment
Judi Dench and Kevin Spacey on the Red Carpet for 2015's Olivier Awards

Ray Davies' Sunny Afternoon scoops the most awards

Arts and Entertainment
Proving his metal: Ross Poldark (played by Aidan Turner in the BBC series) epitomises the risk-taking spirit of 18th-century mine owners

Poldark review
Arts and Entertainment
Eddie Redmayne is reportedly favourite to play Newt Scamander in Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them

Arts and Entertainment
Tom Hardy stars in dystopian action thriller Mad Max: Fury Road

Arts and Entertainment
Josh, 22, made his first million from the game MinoMonsters

Grace Dent

Channel 4 show proves there's no app for happiness
Disgraced Top Gear presenter Jeremy Clarkson
Arts and Entertainment
Game face: Zoë Kravitz, Bruce Greenwood and Ethan Hawke in ‘Good Kill’

film review

Arts and Entertainment
Living like there’s no tomorrow: Jon Hamm as Don Draper in the final season of ‘Mad Men’

TV review

  • Get to the point
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?

ES Rentals

    Independent Dating

    By clicking 'Search' you
    are agreeing to our
    Terms of Use.

    Revealed: Why Mohammed Emwazi chose the 'safe option' of fighting for Isis, rather than following his friends to al-Shabaab in Somalia

    Why Mohammed Emwazi chose Isis

    His friends were betrayed and killed by al-Shabaab
    'The solution can never be to impassively watch on while desperate people drown'
An open letter to David Cameron: Building fortress Europe has had deadly results

    Open letter to David Cameron

    Building the walls of fortress Europe has had deadly results
    Tory candidates' tweets not as 'spontaneous' as they seem - you don't say!

    You don't say!

    Tory candidates' election tweets not as 'spontaneous' as they appear
    Mubi: Netflix for people who want to stop just watching trash

    So what is Mubi?

    Netflix for people who want to stop just watching trash all the time
    The impossible job: how to follow Kevin Spacey?

    The hardest job in theatre?

    How to follow Kevin Spacey
    Armenian genocide: To continue to deny the truth of this mass human cruelty is close to a criminal lie

    Armenian genocide and the 'good Turks'

    To continue to deny the truth of this mass human cruelty is close to a criminal lie
    Lou Reed: The truth about the singer's upbringing beyond the biographers' and memoirists' myths

    'Lou needed care, but what he got was ECT'

    The truth about the singer's upbringing beyond
    Migrant boat disaster: This human tragedy has been brewing for four years and EU states can't say they were not warned

    This human tragedy has been brewing for years

    EU states can't say they were not warned
    Women's sportswear: From tackling a marathon to a jog in the park, the right kit can help

    Women's sportswear

    From tackling a marathon to a jog in the park, the right kit can help
    Hillary Clinton's outfits will be as important as her policies in her presidential bid

    Clinton's clothes

    Like it or not, her outfits will be as important as her policies
    NHS struggling to monitor the safety and efficacy of its services outsourced to private providers

    Who's monitoring the outsourced NHS services?

    A report finds that private firms are not being properly assessed for their quality of care
    Zac Goldsmith: 'I'll trigger a by-election over Heathrow'

    Zac Goldsmith: 'I'll trigger a by-election over Heathrow'

    The Tory MP said he did not want to stand again unless his party's manifesto ruled out a third runway. But he's doing so. Watch this space
    How do Greek voters feel about Syriza's backtracking on its anti-austerity pledge?

    How do Greeks feel about Syriza?

    Five voters from different backgrounds tell us what they expect from Syriza's charismatic leader Alexis Tsipras
    From Iraq to Libya and Syria: The wars that come back to haunt us

    The wars that come back to haunt us

    David Cameron should not escape blame for his role in conflicts that are still raging, argues Patrick Cockburn
    Sam Baker and Lauren Laverne: Too busy to surf? Head to The Pool

    Too busy to surf? Head to The Pool

    A new website is trying to declutter the internet to help busy women. Holly Williams meets the founders