“There is no one way to be black. Our worst performance is entertaining the idea that there is.”
Blurb: “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’?”
It’s impossible to deny that there is a lot of tension in the world right now. From a long list of police shootings, protests, racist rhetoric, the aftermath of Brexit and a new – rather questionable – America President, there has never been a more important time to start listening.
The Good Immigrant is a collection of twenty-one essays from Black, Asian and Minority Ethnic individuals tackling the idea of what it means to be a ‘good immigrant’ while bringing to light aspects of their own lives from: reasons they moved to the UK, the history of their culture or religion, tokenism, and the uncomfortable situations they’ve had to deal with. As Nikesh Shukla – the editor of this book – states in the introduction: “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. And we are so tired of that burden.”
The very important thing this book highlights is that everyone has a completely different story to tell and that to even consider lumping people into certain groups (which unfortunately happens too often) is doing those individuals a disservice. The Good Immigrant contributors range from people whose parents immigrated to the UK but they were born here, to stories detailing why someone decided to move here to the even more fascinating story from one contributor about why they chose to move to the UK and then decided to leave again.
Each story offers a brutally honest and eye-opening insight into what it means to be judged solely on your skin colour, what you chose to wear and even, in some cases, your name.
“Airports and Auditions” is an essay written by actor Riz Ahmed who discusses the frequency with which he is pulled aside at airports to be checked by security and that, because it happens so often, he’s almost started treating them as if they were auditions.
“Is Nish Kumar A Confused Muslin?” by Nish Kumar details his career as a comedian and how one turn of phrase resulted in him becoming an “angry Muslim” meme online. He discusses who these assumptions were made on the well-known fact that he is Indian when in fact the religion he practises is Hinduism.
“Yellow” by Vera Chok discusses what it means to be a Chinese individual from Malaysia and what assumptions are made about her based on her “yellow” skin colour along with the ever-changings words such as “East Asian” replacing “Oriental.”
“Guide To Being Black” by Varaidzo dictates what it means to grow up being mixed race and the struggles of fitting in.
“Namaste” by editor Nikesh Shukla focuses on how the UK has adopted aspects from other cultures and integrated them without checking what they mean. For example, Chai Tea is just “tea tea.”
The examples listed above are just a few of the essays that really stood out to me and each one highlights the differences each individual has faced – and sadly continues to.
This book was created by Unbound Publishing which is entirely funded by its readers. Simply put, this book now exists because people cared enough to make it so. And every single one of those people are listed in the back of the book are like little glimmers of hope showing that if we band together we can make things happen, we can let those from backgrounds different to our own have a platform to use our voices. And I firmly believe that with this book (and the recent announcement of a BAME YA Anthology from Stripes Publishing) more BAME writers will finally get to be heard.
If you read one book this year, make it this one.
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