The Good Immigrant

By Nikesh Shukla

21 writers reflect on race in contemporary Britain

Tuesday, 24 May 2016

Transcript of My 'New Writing South' Lecture At Brighton Festival

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 Eddo-Lodge and Musa Okwonga.

Here's the link to the full lecture (warning, it's about 5,000 words, so go make yourself a cuppa and settle down for a read).

Below is the first few paragraphs to wet your reading whistle:

I’m going to start with a story.

In Fun At The Shops, a father takes his toddler shopping. They go to the green grocers, where they get crunchy green apples. They go to the florist, where they buy pink flowers for mummy — aside, this cementing of the patriarchy through gendered colours, let’s put a pin in that for another lecture — they splash in puddles because it’s raining and they choose yummy treats at the bakery. They then go home.

The book depicts a brown male, with a quiff, probably great looking, probably how I would look if I was at my optimum weight — aside, this body shaming through self-deprecating, let’s put a pin in that for an intervention — and his child, a brown toddler, toddling about in a yellow mac.

My daughter Sunnie has a yellow mac. So do I. We used to be in a gang, called Mac gang. Usually, it involved us both wearing our macs outside when it was raining. We graduated to hat gang when she grew too big for the mac. Sunnie is a brown baby. When we first read that book with her, we told her that she is the child in the book. Not many of our picture books that depict children instead of rabbits or Gruffalos have brown kids in them. They all feature what Marley Dias, the inspirational 11-year-old responsible for the project 1000 Black Girl Books, refers to as 'white boys called Josh and their dog'.

This book, Fun At The Shops does have brown kids in it. Her face lit up the first time we referred to the child with her name. So we continued to do it.

She was now in the story. She could see herself.


Read the full lecture here


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