Pigeon English

by

Stephen Kelman

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Altaf is a Somali boy also in Year 7 at Harri’s school. He is very quiet and doesn’t have many friends, in part due to prejudice against Somalis, whom the other kids claim are “pirates.” Altaf is also teased about his lips, which are perceived as feminine, earning him the nickname “Gay Lips.” Like Mamma, Altaf’s mother does not want Altaf to learn about other religions in religious education, and Harri and Altaf strike up a friendship while they sit in the library during RE lessons. Alta loves drawing superheroes, and Harri finds his knowledge about them impressive. Altaf reveals that his father died in a war.

Altaf Quotes in Pigeon English

The Pigeon English quotes below are all either spoken by Altaf or refer to Altaf. For each quote, you can also see the other characters and themes related to it (each theme is indicated by its own dot and icon, like this one:
Home and the Immigrant Experience Theme Icon
). Note: all page numbers and citation info for the quotes below refer to the Bloomsbury edition of Pigeon English published in 2011.
April Quotes

Altaf is very quiet. Nobody really knows him. You're not supposed to talk to Somalis because they're pirates. Everybody agrees. If you talk to them you might give away a clue to where you keep your treasure and the next

thing you know, your wife has been strangled alive and they're throwing you to the sharks. Me and Altaf don't have to go to RE. Mamma doesn't want me to hear about the false gods, she says it's a waste of time, and Altaf's mamma thinks the same thing.

Related Characters: Harrison Opoku (Harri) (speaker), Mamma, Altaf
Page Number: 52
Explanation and Analysis:
Get the entire Pigeon English LitChart as a printable PDF.
Pigeon English PDF

Altaf Character Timeline in Pigeon English

The timeline below shows where the character Altaf appears in Pigeon English. The colored dots and icons indicate which themes are associated with that appearance.
April
Home and the Immigrant Experience Theme Icon
Language, Culture, and Norms Theme Icon
Pluralism vs. Prejudice Theme Icon
...as underwear and bras) in the machines. Harri then describes a shy Somali boy named Altaf, explaining, “you’re not supposed to talk to Somalis because they’re pirates.” Both Harri and Altaf... (full context)
May
Innocence vs. Guilt Theme Icon
Pluralism vs. Prejudice Theme Icon
Altaf knows all the superheroes and draws pictures of them. He has even invented his own... (full context)
July
Home and the Immigrant Experience Theme Icon
Innocence vs. Guilt Theme Icon
Pluralism vs. Prejudice Theme Icon
Masculinity, Violence, and Death Theme Icon
...a junkie but secretly thinks it was Jordan doing it as a joke. At school, Altaf and Harri discuss superheroes again. Altaf confesses that his father died in a war. Harri... (full context)
Home and the Immigrant Experience Theme Icon
Language, Culture, and Norms Theme Icon
Pluralism vs. Prejudice Theme Icon
In PE, Harri plays a game called rounders, which he hates. Inspired by Altaf’s suggestion, Harri sneaks away through a hole in the fence into a forest behind school.... (full context)