The Good Immigrant- Edited by Nikesh Shukla
Updated: Sep 4, 2020
'The biggest burden facing people of colour in this country is that society deems us bad immigrants- job stealers, benefit scroungers, girlfriend-thieves, refugees - until we cross over in their consciousness, through popular culture, winning races, baking good cakes, being conscientious doctors, to become Good Immigrants'
This quote comes from the poet, journalist and essayist Musa Okwonga- who features in this book. It is where the idea for the title 'The Good Immigrant' came from.
The Good Immigrant is a non fiction collection of essays from 21 eclectic amazing writers from people of colour in the BAME (Black, Asian, Minorities & Ethnic) group. They all live in the U.K. and most earn their living through the arts or journalism industry. The essays address what it is like to be an immigrant or the child of an immigrant in the U.K. They discuss the backward attitude to immigration and refugee and the systematic racism that goes through the UK to this day. For most people of colour, race is in everything they do because the universal experience is white. These essays collect universal experiences of anger, displacement, defensiveness, curiosity, class, death, popular culture and plenty more subjects.
Each and every essay is special in its own right and way, they showcase various backgrounds and what these writers have gone through to be where they are today. It is also very relatable for our current time and political stance. You really get incredible points of views from black African descents, to Chinese immigrants, to mixed race points of view, and then some. I learned a lot reading this book. If you are affected by immigration or know someone who is an immigrant or are just curious about the way it affects people of the BAME community then definitely add this to your reading list.
I also learned a lot about these awesome writers, the layout of the book is very easy to navigate. The essays are short and sweet, and each one is very special in its own way. It took me longer than usual to read this book because each essay is so different and I wanted to fully absorb the words spoken in each story and essay. Some obviously hit home to me more than others, but that's not to say that they weren't all amazing. I loved the humour in a few of the essays too, they were real, raw and informative. I highly recommend this book, and you don't have to be a BAME to read this. Enlighten your life! Take a chance and see what it is like to walk in someone else's shoes.
To give you an idea of what to expect, I have included a few quotes that really stood out for me just below-
Essay- 'A guide to being black' by Varaidzo (she is mixed race ethnicity)
'Without me there, the word (nigger) is just another rhyme in a lyric. It's a tree falling in the forest conundrum: if a white kid raps all the lyrics to 'Gold Digger' and there isn't a black person around to hear it, is it still racist?'
Essay- 'You can't say that! Stories have to be about white people' by Darren Chetty
'As a teacher, I have fewer books at my disposal to demonstrate to BAME children that stories can be about people like them.'
Essay- 'On going home' by Kieran Yates (Indian decent)
'I know when to keep quiet; keeping quiet is all part of the displacement and I think of how keeping your head down is a crucial physicality of the immigrant experience'
Essay- 'The wife of a terrorist' by Miss L (middle eastern actress)
"And you don't speak any other languages? You should be ashamed of yourself." Should I? Would they be saying this to a white actor who hadn't bothered to learn German? At no point had I claimed to speak Hindi, and nor should I, but people can presume I can, just because I look a little bit like I might come from somewhere near there.'
Essay- 'What we talk about when we talk about tokenism' by Bim Adewunmi (black)
'Whiteness- or, you know, white people- exists as the basic template. And that template covers all human experience, by the way: the ability to be special or ordinary, handsome or ugly, tall or short, interesting or dull as ditchwater. On the other hand, our presence in popular culture (as well as in stereotypical 'issue' roles) must always be justified. Our place at the table has to be earned.'
My personal favourite quote comes from the essay-
'Forming blackness through a screen' by Reni Eddo- Lodge
'To be an immigrant, good or bad, is about straddling two homes, whilst knowing you don't really belong to either.'
Big shout out to my homie Mo for lending me this awesome book! To get your very own copy from Amazon books, CLICK HERE