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.
Today, we launch 'The Good Journal', a year to the day after 'The Good Immigrant' came out.
A year ago, 'The Good Immigrant' came out in shops. Because of you.
It became a bestseller. Because of you.
It was all over social media. Because of you.
It won an award voted for by readers. Because of you.
People wanted more. Because of you. Because of the contributors. Because they…
Thank you for all your support with 'The Good Immigrant'. This will be one of my last updates about the project (there's one more big one still to come later on in the year). But this one is a good one and I need your help:
Unbound and Penguin Random House are kindly donating all the leftover hardbacks of ‘The Good Immigrant’ to school libraries. Which is ace and generous and brilliant…
[I've bolded the important bits for the tl;dr crew]
Apologies for the mass email but I wanted to let you know about a new project I'm working on. Today we launch the crowdfunder for a brand new essay book. Following the success of The Good Immigrant, and my dayjob running a youth magazine called Rife, and hey, throwing into the mix the fact that young people feel pretty pissed off that…
Thank you for purchasing The Good Immigrant, for promoting it, for reviewing it, for word-of-mouthing it, for supporting it, for wishing it well, for making noise about it. Thank you if you supported the crowdfunding campaign, saw it in a shop, saw us at a literary festival, went on a friend's recommendation, off a review, from seeing my stupid face in a purposefully silly advert…
Hope you're well.
Thank you for supporting the book, for talking about it on social media, with friends, at bookshops. The response has been great. I won't keep you long but I wonder if you'd do us a favour (a favour that puts you in the running for £100 of book tokens). The Books Are My Bag Reader Awards are open. And hey, seeing as you're such supportive readers, we'd all love it if…
So, you've probably either read The Good Immigrant or are midway through and loving it (I hope). You're thinking to yourself, this is great but where do I get more from the contributors?
Well, I'm going to list for you below books and records our faithful contributors have worked on. Feel free to get them from bookshops or, if you have to, somewhere electronic that I won't publicly…
Happy publication day to Bim Riz Reni Musa Chimene Varaidzo Sarah Ming Daniel Salena Vera Himesh Sabrina Coco Darren Inua Kieran Vinay L and Nish.
'The Good Immigrant' is available everywhere now, on general release.
I emailed Rachael from Unbound about this project on 14th October 2015. Less than a year later and it's out, in the shops, available, being read, debated, loved, cried over --…
Thanks for supporting our book through Unbound. You made it happen. Boy, did you make it happen. Thank you. So much. From me, from Bim, Riz, Musa, Chimene, Ming, Vera, Varaidzo, Sarah, Himesh, Vinay, Darren, Coco, Reni, Inua, Daniel, Salena, Sabrina, Kieran, Nish and Miss L.
You'll have the book in your hands now, hopefully. You're enjoying it, hopefully. You're telling everyone hopefully…
Two pre-release gigs coming up that might be of interest.
1) On 1st August 2016, we're doing an exclusive night of readings and chat about immigrant at the Roundhouse. We're giving away our proceeds from the gig to HOPE not hate, an anti-racism charity.
In the wake of the referendum and the immigration debate, this event, featuring writers Inua Ellams, Varaidzo, Miss L (Casting Call…
I always knew this book was important.
But given how immigration has been a bargaining chip in this rotten, violent, offensive referendum campaign, given how the word has been stripped of any relation to actual people and their lived experience, and now all it represents is an 'erosion of Britishness', given how much immigration has done for this country, I realise it's more important than I initially…
My friend Sammy saw this in Urban Outfitters this weekend. It's just so very tiring, Urban Outfitters. Just so utterly tiring. Anyway, the tenuous link to our book is that my essay is called 'Namaste', and it's about language, its importance, cultural appropriation and how yoga stole the namaste. Below is a short extract from my essay:
Namaste means hello.
Namaste means I’m bowing to you…
*WARNING: LONG POST BUT CONTAINS OFFER OF DOSA*
I hope you're well. I know you know we were fully funded after 3 days and everything since has been a bonus. The 100% funding is great because it means we can pay all the contributors, get the book made, pay for time and printing and typesetting and cover design and all that sorta good stuff that goes into the making a book.…
I thought this would be worth sharing with you. It's a transcript of my lecture for Brighton Festival/New Writing South on Sunday 22nd May. I was putting out the call for more inclusive/normalisation/diversity (bleugh, I hate that word) in books. While this book is about the UK and race/immigration, themes in some of the essays cross over with the lecture. Plus, I quote contributors Varaidzo, Reni…
Here are the first sentences of all our essays:
From 'Namaste' by Nikesh Shukla:
Namaste means hello.
From 'A Guide To Being Black' by Varaidzo:
With most people, their race is perhaps the only aspect of their identity guaranteed from the moment of conception.
From 'Window Of Opportunity' by Himesh Patel:
When I was four years old, I tried to jump out of my bedroom window…
Hey. We filed the book yesterday. 21 writers, amazingly, pulled together an entire book in just over three months. It was hard fucking work, my friends, I'm not going to lie. Here is another not-lie. It's the best bloody book I have ever worked on. Really. It is unbelievably good. I'm going to do you a blogpost next week, telling you more about what's in the book, who's written what and what you can…
These people are helping to fund The Good Immigrant.