The Good Immigrant is a rich and powerful collection of 21 readable – and very personal – essays by 21 non-white British writers exploring what it means to be Black, Asian and Minority Ethnic in Britain today. These writers tell stories about trying to find their place in a world (read: country) where “the default is always white”. The book encompasses a broad and colourful sweep of narratives which include: a history of family names; ‘blackness’; being typecast as a terrorist whilst travelling; and TCK angst.
The writers play around with the idea of ‘Britishness’ as both a means of ‘othering’ but also as a badge of honour to be earned after proving oneself to have been ‘a good immigrant’ … winning an Olympic Gold Medal or a national baking competition, etc.
At a time when conversations about immigration and national identity are at the top of the political agenda, The Good Immigrant is a timely, unapologetic read. It manages to raise deep and provoking questions through humorous, angry, unclichéd stories.
The 21 essays vary in quality and style. I enjoyed the majority of them particularly A Guide To Being Black by Varaidzo, My Name Is My Name by Chimene Suleyman, On Going Home by Kieran Yates, Shade by Salena Godden and The Ungrateful Country by Musa Okwonga.
The power of The Good Immigrant lies, not primarily, in the politics of its writers. It lies however in the simple yet increasingly radical act of giving people the time and space to reveal their world on their terms to the rest of us. Stories matter because people matter and this book prods us to care.
Book Rating: 4.5/5