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’?
The Good Immigrant is a collection of essays edited by Nikesh Shukla. In it, 21 BAME (black, asian and minority ethnic) writers discuss what it means to live in the UK in 2017. Obviously, this is a ridiculously timely book, and one that I have been looking forward to reading for quite some time.
There wasn’t a weak essay in this collection. Some clearly had different agendas – some were quite factual and full of statistics, whilst others were more personal. There were quite a few essays by actors and comedians, who managed to take the piss out of the racist remarks and situations they’ve experienced, whilst still packing a punch. I honestly couldn’t tell you which ones were my favourites, because they ranged so widely and were all so necessary. I can only urge you to pick it up yourself.
What I love most about The Good Immigrant is that it was published by Unbound, a publishing house that crowdfunds books. This is such an innovative and modern way of publishing that I absolutely love, because everyone knows that the book will sell. (Also, excitingly for those of us looking for entry-level publishing jobs, they are currently looking for an editorial assistant and crowdfunding assistant! I am definitely going to apply!)
My one question is that my copy had a blurb on the front from J.K. Rowling. Like, I know her name sells books, but really?! She is everyone’s problematic fave when it comes to race. I honestly didn’t feel comfortable with it, though I haven’t seen anyone else mention it.
Although this focuses on BAME experiences in the UK, I think that this book is essential in the understanding of immigration and race relations in the world today. Sobering and witty, I can see myself going back to The Good Immigrant again and again.
NB: This is my choice for the ‘Diverse Non-fiction’ square in Diversity Bingo 2017.