I cried a lot reading this collection of essays. Each story is unique, but I related to something, sometimes nearly everything, in nearly all of them. As a first generation immigrant to the US who has previously been an immigrant in other countries, I felt at home reading this book. It’s hard for me to feel at home anywhere, but this book felt like a warm blanket. A warm, comforting blanket that also made me cry, and taught me many new things, about myself, about other countries, and about people in general. Also about this country: a place I can’t call home but have resided in now longer than anywhere else. It’s a strange balance, but I am sure many people can relate to it.
The Good Immigrant is a collection of 26 essays by a wonderful group of artists whose one connection is that they are immigrants, or children of immigrants to the US. The original version of The Good Immigrant was published in the UK in 2016, and contained stories about immigration and race from writers of color based in the UK. The US version follows in the same footsteps, with the backdrop of the 2016 elections, and the growing crackdown on immigrants (of color mainly). I know the work of some of the authors quite well (Teju Cole, Fatimah Asghar, Chigozie Obioma for example), and was delighted to discover the work of other wonderful artists (Porochista Khakpour, Jim St. Germain, Yann Mounir Demange to name a few). A collection of unique stories, of history, of arriving, of staying, of seeking, of enduring, that are woven into a collective story of a country in perpetual movement, despite what white supremacist rhetoric wants us to believe.
I selfishly wished that I could add my own story as number 27, my partner’s story as number 28, and so many of friends’ stories as well. Reading this book inspired me yet again to write about belonging, home, and immigration. Sometimes I wonder if I just need to release myself of all the anxiety I have held inside for so many years, or if it’s because I want my children to understand that they have as much right to be here, to be proud of their heritage and their parents, as others do. Maybe I just want us all to be heard.
The Good Immigrant is necessary, and home. Thanks to Nikesh Shukla and Chimene Suleyman for compiling and editing this collection, and for all of the amazing writers for pouring their hearts and their stories out. Every single essay inspired me to work harder at what I do, and to never give up in my message.