The Good Immigrant is a collection of 21 essays by BAME (black, Asian, minority ethnic writers) exploring what it’s like to be an ethnic minority in the UK. As in all essay collections, (they share this strange quality with boxes of chocolates), there are some essays I love to bits, and some that left me with nothing more than a vague sense of appreciation.
It’s an important book, which has gathered much publicity and critical acclaim in the UK in the past two years, and has drawn attention to a very important subject. It was crowdfunded at first, only later drawing the attention of the traditional publishing establishment, which was eager to capitalize on the book’s success.
The literary quality of all the essays is very high. But my absolute personal favourites were as follows:
- “Kendo Nagasaki and Me” by Daniel York Loh
An essay about his childhood passion for watching wrestling on TV (and the problem of representation)
- “Is Nish Kumar a Confused Muslim?” by Nish Kumar
A hilarious essay about how Nish Kumar became a meme (and the assumptions people make about ethnicity )
- “On Going Home” by Kieran Yates
An essay relating Kieran Yates’s experience on a visit to Punjab
- “Flags” by Coco Khan
A very funny essay about stereotypes and prejudice
But there’s an issue that is nagging at me that makes it difficult to be objective about this book, and that is its title: The Good Immigrant. The book was published in 2016, the year of the UK referendum, and it concerns itself solely with the BAME community. There is absolutely no mention at all of Eastern Europeans living in the UK. I spent so much time thinking about this that I actually wrote another blog post about it… stay tuned…