Review: The Good Immigrant

5 Star

I brought The Good Immigrant after reading an article published by Riz Ahmed in The Guardian newspaperHis article is one of 21 essays by Black, Asian or Ethnic Minority (BAME) immigrants about their experiences in living in Britain. Of the books I have read in recent years this collection has become one of my favourites.

The Good Immigrant book cover

In a time of post-Brexit, immigration is such a hot topic at the moment and everyone has their opinion. It is nice to have read an honest, and intelligent discourse on the subject of immigration and race. Shukla mentions in the blur, the some immigrants like Mo Farah or Nadiya Hussain, the popular culture classes as good.  But the media seems to see most immigrants as bad.

I am the daughter of immigrants and my parents where children of immigrants. (Both sets of my grandparents moved from India to South Africa before my parents were born). I was born in London it is my home, my parents would refer to South Africa as their home.

Growing up, I embraced the Britpop music scene of the ’90s, I love American comics and Japanese cartoons. My favourite foods are burritos, FroYo and pizza (deep crust – sorry). I consider myself multicultural. I see myself as a Londoner – not British as I’ve never been to Wales or Scotland. But I do support the England football team. When I fill out a form I have to tick the British-Indian box. Yet I am still asked, “where are you from?” Yet for most, I will always be seen as a child of immigrants.


Whilst all these stories are different, they feature a lot of similar themes. The lack of decent roles of non-white actors is a reoccurring subject. Riz Ahmed talks about the promise land of non-white actors. A time where actors are given roles based on their talent and not their skin tone. It reminded me an episode of Master on None, that talks about Indians on TV and discussed this issue in more depth. Similarly, in Wei Ming Kam’s essay, she talks about the stereotyping of East Asian characters on British TV. Watching TV you would think all East Asian women are weak and need saving and Asian men members of the triad.

Language is another reoccurring theme in the book. Vera Chok discussed what is the collective term for people from East Asian is in the UK. Within the essay she discuss what countries actually makes up East Asia? And should this classification include South East Asian countries? Whereas Nikesh Shukla talks about the miss-use of Indian words in the English language. For example, “chai” means tea, when you order a chai tea you are in fact ordering a tea tea!

My Fandoms

I consider myself opinionated about the race in the media. Like most people, I too was disgusted about the whitewashing of the Oscars this year. And I created my own list of films that deserved a nomination. When Scarlett Johansson was cast as the lead in Ghost in the Shell, I posted an angry rant on Facebook. On Twitter, I rave about the multicultural cast of Rogue One. Generally speaking, I had not really thought about my geeky loves as letting down the BAME communities.

It was interesting to read about these fandoms from another point of view. Harry Potter is a children’s book about a boy hero bringing down a fascist villian. Yet where are the BAME teachers at Hogwarts? Harry’s classmates are “token” representations of the immigrant communities living in the UK in the 1990’s. Even Sherlock is guilty of prepetuating the myth of a submissive East Asian woman. That John and Sherlock (the white men) need to save from the triad!

I loved the personal nature of this book. Each of the authors provided an honest insight. Talking so openly and frankly, I would love to talk more about each essay with it’s author. The collection is thought provoking, funny and informative about an important topic. I strongly recommend this book for anyone interested in modern-day Britain, regardless of race or nationality.