The Good Immigrant (2016) edited by Nikesh Shukla is a compilation of 21 short essays. They use blends of humour, anecdotes and facts to feed us shrewd observations and harsh realities. They’re all insightful, with recurring themes of carelessness, casualness and the importance of taking race seriously today. They revolve around real human relationships and interactions from classrooms to bars.
“We are simply the martyrs who are too afraid to die” – Suleyman
I really appreciated this book, while not exactly relating to each and every story, coming from a community of well-traveled Arabs my friends, family and myself have all experienced the role of ‘Other’ which has left us with anecdotes of our own. Some of us have ‘culture clash’ stories from within our home countries too.
“Storytelling is the most powerful way to promote our understanding of the world in which we live” – Patel
I relate to dancing like Beyonce; I relate to carrying my father’s name – traditions of a people who inherited identity instead of land; I relate to aunties who don’t understand my single status and my taste in music and more. You will find at least one story that resonates with you (probably more). It’s an excellent read that’s both thought-provoking and quick.
- Namaste by Nikesh Shukla: The importance of language.
- A Guide to Being Black by Varaidzo: The black experience in today’s England through the lens of a mixed-race woman.
- My Name is my Name by Chimene: The shift from words of significance to meaningless sounds as white people appropriate vocabulary from other cultures. Names as inheritance. This one made me tear up.
- Yellow by Vera Chok: Sex, power and the fetishization of the passive, yellow, Asian body.
- Kendo Nagasaki and Me by Daniel York Loh: The Chinese and Japanese have dirty knees, wrestling, and Dr. Who.
- Window of Opportunity by Himesh Patel: An actor and the power of story-telling.
- Is Nish Kumar a Confused Muslim? by Nish Kumar: A self-named comedian who was suddenly the face of a meme. This one cracked me up.
- Forming Blackness Through a Screen by Reni Eddo-Lodge: Blackness on American TV vs. reality of a Nigerian third generation immigrant.
- Beyond ‘Good’ Immigrants by Wei Ming Kam: The ways in which the ‘positive’ stereotypes of Chinese people as ‘model immigrants’ fails Chinese British citizens.
- ‘You Can’t Say That! Stories Have to be About White People’ by Darren Chetty: The lack of representation in children’s books.
- On Going Home by Kieran Yates: A British Indian woman returning to India for vacation.
- Flags by Coco Khan: Brown and dating.
- Cutting Through (on Black Barbershops and Masculinity) by Innua Ellams: Stories from African barbershops across Africa and in England.
- Wearing Where You’re at: Immigration and UK Fashion by Sabrina Mahfouz: Arab name, white face.
- Airports and Auditions by Riz Ahmed: The post-9/11 roles people of colour are cast into, both in life and on the screen.
- Perpetuating Casteism by Sarah Sahim: The troubles that the Dalit caste still face long after the caste system was formally demolished.
- Shade by Salena Godden: An ode to skin.
- The Wife of a Terrorist by Miss L: Lack of casting roles available for female, Middle Eastern actresses who only speak English.
- What we Talk About when we Talk About Tokenism by Bim Adewumni: Lack of well-rounded, average characters in films and shows that are actually people of colour.
- Death is a Many-Headed Monster by Vinay Patel: Existential crisis of a six-year old.
- The Ungrateful Country by Musa Okwonga: Going to Eton and Oxford is still not enough, you will never be one of them because of the colour of your skin.
These essays were written by people from all walks of life. Nikesh Shukla (author), Musa Okwonga (poet/broadcaster), Chimene Suleyman (poet/columnist), Vinay Patel (playwright), Bim Adewumni (Buzzfeed), Salena Godden (poet/writer), Sabrina Mahfouz (playwright), Kieran Yates (journalist), Coco Khan (journalist), Sarah Sahim (journalist), Reni Eddo Lodge (journalist), Varaidzo (student), Darren Chetty (teacher), Himesh Patel (Tamwar from Eastenders), Nish Kumar (comedian), Miss L from Casting Call Woe (actor), Daniel York Loh (playwright and actor), Vera Chok (actor/writer), Riz Ahmed (actor/rapper), Inua Ellams (poet/playwright) and Wei Ming Kam (writer). Read more about it here.
“The Good Immigrant review – an unflinching dialogue about race and racism in the UK” – The Guardian
“The Good Immigrant, edited by Nikesh Shukla, review: ‘I’d push a copy of this through the letter box of every front door in Britain’” – The Independent