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The Boy with the Topknot, by Sathnam Sanghera

"It's 1979, I'm three years old, and like all breakfast times during my youth it begins with Mum combing my hair, a ritual for which I have to sit down on the second-hand, floral-patterned settee, and lean forward, like I'm presenting myself for execution."

For Sathnam Sanghera, growing up in Wolverhampton in the eighties was a confusing business. On the one hand, these were the heady days of George Michael mix-tapes, Dallas on TV and, if he was lucky, the occasional Bounty Bar. On the other, there was his wardrobe of tartan smocks, his 30p-an-hour job at the local sewing factory and the ongoing challenge of how to tie the perfect top-knot.

And then there was his family, whose strange and often difficult behaviour he took for granted until, at the age of twenty-four, Sathnam made a discovery that changed everything he ever thought he knew about them. Equipped with breathtaking courage and a glorious sense of humour, he embarks on a journey into their extraordinary past - from his father's harsh life in rural Punjab to the steps of the Wolverhampton Tourist Office - trying to make sense of a life lived among secrets.

'Tragic, funny and disturbing. It will challenge you, and may even change you' Carole Angier, Independent

Resources

Age: Key Stage 3

Subject: English Language

Non-fiction Text: The Boy with the TopKnot

Author: Santham Sanghera 

The activities in this resource pack gives KS3 students opportunities to engage with a non-fiction text, developing their reading, writing and speaking skills. The pack includes activities on comprehension, structuring ideas and looking for descriptive and narrative techniques, using evidence. 

The activities in the resource pack are designed to be used alongside the video of author Santham Sanghera, and the extract of the text PDF.

  • The Boy with the Topknot

  • 'Could not be more enjoyable, engaging or moving' Observer

    "It's 1979, I'm three years old, and like all breakfast times during my youth it begins with Mum combing my hair, a ritual for which I have to sit down on the second-hand, floral-patterned settee, and lean forward, like I'm presenting myself for execution."

    For Sathnam Sanghera, growing up in Wolverhampton in the eighties was a confusing business. On the one hand, these were the heady days of George Michael mix-tapes, Dallas on TV and, if he was lucky, the occasional Bounty Bar. On the other, there was his wardrobe of tartan smocks, his 30p-an-hour job at the local sewing factory and the ongoing challenge of how to tie the perfect top-knot.

    And then there was his family, whose strange and often difficult behaviour he took for granted until, at the age of twenty-four, Sathnam made a discovery that changed everything he ever thought he knew about them. Equipped with breathtaking courage and a glorious sense of humour, he embarks on a journey into their extraordinary past - from his father's harsh life in rural Punjab to the steps of the Wolverhampton Tourist Office - trying to make sense of a life lived among secrets.

    'I absolutely loved it. Heartbreaking and wonderful. He writes beautifully' Maggie O'Farrell

    'Tragic, funny and disturbing. It will challenge you, and may even change you' Carole Angier, Independent

    Published in hardback as If You Don't Know Me by Now

  • Buy the book

What's included in the resource pack?

  • The Boy with the Topknot context interview with Sathnam Sanghera (see video below) 
  • Activities PowerPoint  (aimed towards KS3 students)
  • Step 5 Activity Workbook 
  • Text Extract (PDF)
  • Resource Overview

How to use the pack

  • Get your students to watch the context video, before completing the corresponding activities 
  • Ensure all students have a print copy of the text extract to work from
  • Consult the resource overview for further guidance

The Boy With the Topknot

Interview with author Sathnam Sanghera giving context to his book. Watch time 9.41minutes

More from Sathnam Sanghera

In this Lit in Colour Penguin Talk Sathnam Sanghera explains why talking about the long term effects of the British Empire is still relevant today.

Read more

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