One of the finest essay collections I have read this year is ‘The Good Immigrant’. Edited by writer Nikesh Shukla, the collection has essays from 21 Black, Asian, Minority Ethnic (BAME) creatives from across the UK. These are writers, actors, comedians, and more, writing about their experiences growing up as immigrants or children of immigrants.
Funded by, among others, J K Rowling, and blurbed by, among others, Zadie Smith, it came out after the Brexit vote and during the peak madness of the US presidential election. Black, Asian, and Minority Ethnic (BAME) creatives (writers, actors, comedians, and more) from across the UK came together to write and share their experiences as immigrants or children of immigrants. Their themes, however, are universal and, having been an immigrant across various countries myself, I found much to identify with and ponder.
I lived, studied, and worked in the UK from 1991-1998 myself. It was a time before there was much “wokeness” about race/gender issues and my sort took the daily discrimination in stride as if it was just another fact of life. Someday, I plan to write about all that too. In the meantime, let me share a couple of recent UK events that have stuck in my mind as examples of how some of that daily “othering” continues on today.
1/ Recently, a black Cambridge student was attacked and harassed online after a British newspaper ran a rather clickbait-y story with her photograph on the front page. The story was about an open letter, signed by many students, to Cambridge University faculty to “decolonize” their literature canon by including the works of black and ethnic minority authors.
2/ Earlier in the year, when the British TV series, Guerrilla, was released there was an uproar that an Asian actor, Freida Pinto, had been included in a story about the 1970s Black Power movement. Blacks felt that erased all the strong black women who had been involved. Asians responded that they, too, had been involved actively but, in that time, they had not been as visible. The director, John Ridley, maintained that he wanted to also include an inter-racial relationship and believed that brown people had stood alongside their black brothers and sisters in the movement.
I hope that people of all colors and races will read this collection. I hope this review whets your appetite to do so.