the good immigrant review

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.

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29 thoughts on “the good immigrant review

  1. Creatyvebooks says:

    I haven’t heard of this book before but it’s definitely something I’m interested in reading. Also I agree about the whole JK Rowling thing. Not really in good taste considering all the unpleasant things she has said or written.

    Great review and thanks for showing me a new book that need to read.

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  2. Jackie B @ Death by Tsundoku says:

    Very timely. I wonder– are the essays recent enough that anyone talks about the racial fallout post-Brexit? I think this topic is fascinating and terrifying… Often, essay collections are a bit dated by publication. But I am interested to read this, for certain. I need more books covering topics like this in my life. Thank you for sharing!!

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  3. Amy @ inkyspells says:

    I really want to read this! I read Riz Ahmed’s essay when it was featured in The Guardian a while back, and I’ve been so desperate to get my hands on this collection ever since.
    Completely agree with you about the JK Rowling thing. Like, I get it, she’s popular, and she’s outspoken about her political views, but her track record is… not great. It seems like a bit of an oversight.
    I also had no idea that it was crowdfunded! That’s such an interesting approach to publishing!

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  4. Bina says:

    Great review! I’ll definitely be reading this one when I have the funds. Sounds like a book that validates US Othered people and it’s so rare and such a relief to read this perspective.
    Oh yeah the Rowling quote. I’ll go out on a limb here and say the writers and editors have complicated feelings and reason about it, too. Would be great to know more, but it’s also probably not easy to talk about freely without consequences. Brainstorming 😊

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  5. Ceillie Simkiss says:

    I’m glad you enjoyed this. I’m interested in reading this – I know that race relations are so very different in the UK than they are here in the US. It is weird that JKR wrote the blurb, but maybe she learned a thing or two?

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  6. Pia says:

    I’m so excited to add this book to my to-read list! I feel like I’m so steeped in studying immigration from a US-centric approach, I pay short shrift to learning about immigration to Western countries globally. I’m eager to read about the perspective of immigrants to the UK, and possible parallels to draw.

    By the way, how did you hear about The Good Immigrant? I’d love to find out about more books like it!

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    • whatthelog says:

      Yay!!! For some reason I always assumed immigration in the US and the UK were fairly similar – now having lived here, I realise that is not necessarily the case! This book gave me a lot of insights into that.
      Um, I think I saw it on twitter when they were doing the fundraising? And then once it was published I saw it advertised in the Bookseller, I think.

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  7. Grab the Lapels says:

    I’d love for my book club to read this, but it isn’t at the library (likely because it was crowd sourced). Do you know if they’re still selling the book, or are they only fulfilling orders from backers right now?

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      • Grab the Lapels says:

        I’ll keep an eye out! Sometimes companies send a product to backers because what they backed was actually the money to buy the book. If it’s a small operation, it can take time to get books printed, mailed, etc. Or, some Kickstarters will promise exclusivity–only the people who back the project can have the book for X amount of time before it’s released to everyone.

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