Keep out, Britain is full up.
Or so goes the narrative of immigration in this country all too often. We are a country in flux – our media condemns refugees one day, sheds tears over them the next. Our narrative around immigration is built on falsehoods, stereotypes and anxieties about the diminishing sense of what Britishness means.
Meanwhile, we’re told that we live in a multicultural melting pot, that we’re post-racial. Yet, studies show that throughout the UK, people from BAME groups are much more likely to be in poverty (with an income of less than 60 per cent of the median household income) than white British people (Institute Of Race Relations). It’s a hard time to be an immigrant, or the child of one, or even the grandchild of one.
Unless you have managed to transcend into popular culture, like Mo Farah, Nadya Hussain or the other ‘good immigrants’ out there. It’s a bad time to be a bad immigrant. My conversation with Musa Okwonga about this led to the very generation of this collection. I said I wished there was a book of essays by good immigrants. He reminded of the Chinua Achebe quote, if you don’t like the story, write your own.
The Good Immigrant brings together fifteen emerging British black, Asian and minority ethnic writers, poets, journalists and artists. In these fifteen essays about race and immigration, they paint a picture of what it means to be ‘other’ in a country that wants you, doesn’t want you, doesn’t accept you, needs you for its equality monitoring forms and would prefer you if you won a major reality show competition.
The book will explore why we come here, why we stay, what it means for our identity if we’re mixed race, where our place is in the world if we’re unwelcome in the UK, and what effects this has on the education system. By examining popular culture, family, profession and the arts, we will be looking at diversity and questioning what this concept even means anymore. The essays are poignant, challenging, funny, sad, heartbreaking, polemic, angry, weary, and, most importantly, from an emerging generation of BAME writers.
Contributors to this extraordinary state of the nation collection will include: 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).
I’m been shouting about the need for more BAME voices for so long on Twitter. I’m glad I can finally do something about it.
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