Anita and Me


Meera Syal

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Anita and Me Study Guide

Welcome to the LitCharts study guide on Meera Syal's Anita and Me. Created by the original team behind SparkNotes, LitCharts are the world's best literature guides.

Brief Biography of Meera Syal

Like her character Meena Kumar, Feroza Syal, the daughter of Indian immigrants, was born in a small mining town in central England. After studying English and Drama at the University of Manchester, she began acting and writing stage plays. These experiences led her to pursue a multi-faceted career as an actor, a journalist, and a writer for radio and television. However, it is her talents as a novelist that ultimately brought her fame, as her 1996 semi-autobiographical novel Anita and Me was published to critical acclaim. In 2017, Syal was elected a Fellow of the Royal Society of Literature.
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Historical Context of Anita and Me

A central historical event mentioned in Anita and Me is the Partition of India, a process through which colonial British India was divided into the countries known today as India and Pakistan. Britain ruled over India from 1858 to 1947, until the Indians’ struggle for independence forced the colonial power to leave shortly after the Second World War. In 1947, the British officially divided the country into separate territories defined in ethnic and religious terms: Pakistan was to become a Muslim country and India a Hindu one. This forced millions of people to move from one country to the next, through forced migration which was often accompanied by violent massacres, as people killed others because of their religious beliefs. As such, this episode remains a dark episode in Indian history, marking generations of Indian and Pakistani families.

Other Books Related to Anita and Me

Anita and Me is a typical “Bildungsroman,” a novel that shows the protagonist’s early years of personal growth. In this regard, Anita and Me shares many structural and thematic characteristics with Harper Lee’s classic American novel To Kill A Mockingbird, which is both directly and indirectly referenced in Syal’s novel. Meena once gives this book as a gift to her friend Robert, and the “Big House” can be seen as a reference to recluse Boo Radley’s house. More generally, both novels share thematic similarities. Like Harper Lee’s protagonist, Meena learns to recognize injustice and battle racism. More recently, contemporary works that show characters struggling with potentially hostile environments tinged with exclusion and racism include Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie’s novel Americanah, Zadie Smith’s White Teeth, and Brick Lane by Monica Ali.
Key Facts about Anita and Me
  • Full Title: Anita and Me
  • Where Written: England
  • When Published: 1996
  • Literary Period: Contemporary
  • Genre: Novel
  • Setting: An imaginary English village, Tollington, in central England in the 1970s.
  • Climax: After hearing that Anita took part in the beating of an innocent Indian man, Meena semi-intentionally falls off a horse and breaks her leg.
  • Antagonist: Anita Rutter often proves cruel and domineering, but, more generally, Meena’s antagonists involve any kind of racism or intolerance, as represented by other characters such as Sam Lowbridge.
  • Point of View: First-person

Extra Credit for Anita and Me

Literary Popularity. Anita and Me was so successful after being in published in 1996 that it was later adapted into a movie in 2002 and a musical drama in 2015.

Near-Death Experience. Like her characters Meena and Tracey, Meera Syal has also had a near-death experience as a child. She almost drowned when she was twelve after her canoe capsized and she stayed under water for thirty seconds, which felt much longer to her.