The Good Immigrant Edited By Nikesh Shukla
Release Date: 22nd September 2016
Rating: ☆ ☆ ☆ ☆ ☆
How does it feel to be constantly regarded as a potential threat, strip-searched at every airport?
Or be told that, as an actress, the part you’re most fitted to play is ‘wife of a terrorist’? How does it feel to have words from your native language misused, misappropriated and used aggressively towards you? How does it feel to hear a child of colour say in a classroom that stories can only be about white people? How does it feel to go ‘home’ to India when your home is really London? What is it like to feel you always have to be an ambassador for your race? How does it feel to always tick ‘Other’?
Bringing together 21 exciting black, Asian and minority ethnic voices emerging in Britain today, The Good Immigrant explores why immigrants come to the UK, why they stay and what it means to be ‘other’ in a country that doesn’t seem to want you, doesn’t truly accept you – however many generations you’ve been here – but still needs you for its diversity monitoring forms.
Inspired by discussion around why society appears to deem people of colour as bad immigrants – job stealers, benefit scroungers, undeserving refugees – until, by winning Olympic races or baking good cakes, or being conscientious doctors, they cross over and become good immigrants, editor Nikesh Shukla has compiled a collection of essays that are poignant, challenging, angry, humorous, heartbreaking, polemic, weary and – most importantly – real.
I have not read a non-fiction in such a long time. I have many, pretty daft excuses, ranging from I don’t like the subject matter to I’m just too damn excited about the fiction that’s coming out and I just don’t have time. But I didn’t want these excuses to make me stop picking up The Good Immigrant.
Crowdfunded and supported into being published, The Good Immigrant is a collection of essays written by people of BAME (Black, Asian, Minority Ethnic) background and talks about life in the UK while being BAME. The only reason I had heard about it was because some of the contributors I actually follow on Twitter who were promoting the heck out of it (of course!) and I got my hands on it as soon as I could.
While social media has definitely done the most part in making me more aware of institutionalized racism, diversity in entertainment, casual racism and so much more, The Good Immigrant made these topics much more personal, especially when every single essay is taken from memories of experiencing oppression from straight up racial bullying at school to micro-aggressions at the airport.
A lot of the reviews I’ve read are ‘this book was too sad’ and I feel that if that’s all you got from this book, then you kinda missed the point of it. Yes, of course there are many sad parts; these experiences weren’t written about to make you feel… I don’t know, entertained? I mean sure, there were some especially funny essays and jokes, but to me, it was about listening and understanding voices that barely get a chance to speak even in today’s ‘tolerant’ society. Yes, it certainly may be better in some aspects, but in others? In the parts that aren’t so explicit? That you can easily not see or notice or ignore because you’re a white person? That’s what’s in the book. And while you can easily say ‘everyone should read this book’, I think realistically it’s better to say ‘if you want to consider yourself a white ally or someone who doesn’t want to contribute to what you think isn’t racist and damaging, then read this book’.
But also, just read it for the voices. Read it for the understanding. Read it because it is GOOD AND GREAT.