Title: The Good Immigrant
Author: Nikesh Shukla (Editor)
Date Of Version Reviewed: 2016
What the book is about…
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 the ‘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 form.
With the rise in hate crime across the United Kingdom post-Brexit one can only feel that this book comes at the perfect time; a time when every person should look at their own beliefs, prejudices and intolerance and what this means for the UK moving forward in 2017 and beyond. With that in mind I must admit that I am a white male – possibly the type of reader whom Shukla wants to aim his anger filled rants at but I must admit his own story that kicks off this impressive piece of work was not the one I would have gone for out of the gate. Shukla unfortunately portrays his character as that of ‘The Whiny Immigrant’, seeming to take pleasure in skewering anyone who – albeit haphazardly – appropriates his own ancestral terms and phrases. It is a shame that he did not possess the poise and humour of Varaidzo – a lovely piece on her own internal battles whilst getting the point across with precision.
It is the tone of Varaidzo’s work that makes it both endearing whilst never shying away from the message. The desire to be seen as ‘Western’ whilst maintaining one’s own cultural identity is a tough – often excruciatingly difficult – task for any person of black ancestry. Her example of wanting to ‘do a Beyonce’ was charming – indicating her long hours sitting, crying on the bathroom floor as she tried desperately to take charge of her natural wild hair. From speaking to many black colleagues and friends this is a common problem that we ‘white’ people don’t understand but the point was powerful.
Chimene Suleyman picks up the angry mantel in her piece; making multiple references to her heritage and name. It is unfortunate that her family decided to write her name phonetically to avoid teasing at school – a choice that seems to allow Suleyman to place the blame onto the traditional white British person. That said she does provide some unique insights into the Turkish background from which her family originates. It is interesting, then, that she feels more of an affinity with her cultural heritage than that of the British for which she admits to have grown up.
What the folks from Goodreads said…
“In all, while this litany of victimhood, catalogue of misappropriation and petition for complexity contains within it a seed of genuine grievance, it calls for a more patient editor who would have spread the net wider and gone a bit deeper. This would have avoided the marked skewering in tone. In its current form, I recommend reading it with alternating absorption into slightly more positive immigrant experience arcs within UK: say the podcasts of the last decade’s worth of Desert Island Discs where immigrants are the guests and revisit a life time of struggles in assimilating and appropriating themselves while finding their niche in their adoptive nation.” Karan 3/5
“This is supposed to be a collection of BAME writing, yet there is an absence of voices from people of Caribbean origin, which I can’t forgive.” Anouchka Burton 3/5
“This is a fantastic book which I feel everyone should read.” Erika 5/5
“A defiant stand against the hateful, dehumanising rhetoric of the last year.” Anish Shah 4/5
“In reality some stories are 5 stars and some 2 and many in between. Moving and an important read. And I remember the one black girl in our school who felt forced to leave – not for outright racism just assumptions and attitudes. I thought of her and others as I read. But some stories irritated me and I know they shouldn’t but they did. Glad it was written and glad I read it.” Hilary May 3/5