Forest Gate

A Novel

Forest Gate

A shattering, poetic and raw first novel set among young Somalian refugees in the slums of London -- beginning with a double suicide and ending with a rebirth.

In a community where poverty is kept close and passed from one generation to the next, two teenage boys, best friends, stand on top of twin tower blocks. Facing each other across the abyss of London's urban sprawl, they say their good-byes and jump. One dies. The other, alternating with the sister of the deceased, narrates this novel.

James gives us a window into the inner city -- his mom is a crack addict, his gang "brothers" force him to kill another black boy. Meina describes with feeling her family history in Somalia: after her parents are killed before her eyes, her village aunt sells her to six husbands -- before she is even a teenager. Desperate to rebuild their lives, James and Meina set out to find the place for which every child longs -- home.

Brutal and shockingly violent in places, rambunctious and lively in others and slyly, dryly witty in yet others, Meina and James's journey toward life through their past is ultimately a powerful story of redemptive love and the debut of an extraordinary literary talent.
  • Free Press | 
  • 224 pages | 
  • ISBN 9781439172964 | 
  • February 2010
List Price $1.99 (price may vary by retailer)


Reading Group Guide

This reading group guide for Forest Gate includes an introduction, discussion questions, ideas for enhancing your book club, and a Q&A with author Peter Akinti. The suggested questions are intended to help your reading group find new and interesting angles and topics for your discussion. We hope that these ideas will enrich your conversation and increase your enjoyment of the book.



Set in the slums of contemporary London, Forest Gate chronicles the lives of the dual narrators—James and Armeina—in the wake of a double suicide attempt which James survives but Ashvin, Armeina’s brother, does not. Through the heart-wrenchingly human voices of Armeina and James, we learn about the extraordinarily sad family history of both narrators. Armeina, called Meina, was forced to flee Somalia with her brother Ashvin after the two witnessed the brutal murder of their intellectual parents by Ethiopian soldiers. Meina and Ashvin, with the help of their white benefactor Mr. Bloom, move to the ‘estates’ of London where they meet James, the youngest of six warlord and drug dealing brothers and the son of a crack-addicted mother. James and Meina are brought together by the tragedy of Ashvin’s death and James’ survival and fall in love in the shadow of their shared sorrow. Poignant and breathtaking, tragic and captivating, Forest Gate takes the reade see more

About the Author

Peter Akinti
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Peter Akinti

Peter Akinti was a seventies child, born of Nigerian ancestry, in London. He read Law at a London University. He has written for the Guardian, and worked for four years at HM Treasury Chambers before founding and editing Untold Magazine for five years. Untold was the first independent British magazine for black men and had a wealth of gifted contributors from all over the diaspora. Peter spent eighteen months in Nigeria, running a restaurant, beer parlour and cinema in Ondo Town, Southwest Nigeria. He currently lives in Brooklyn.  Forest Gate is his first novel.