Best for: Those looking for a different perspective on life in England.
In a nutshell: Twenty-one Black, Asian, and minority ethnic individuals share stories from their lives either as immigrants or as people viewed as ‘other’ in daily life.
“If a white kid raps all the lyrics to ‘Gold Digger’ and there isn’t a black person around to hear it, is it still racist?”
“Our ancestors were terrified. Do not forget that. Allow them to humanness of fear.”
“We fine-tune the ability to find the nuances funny, deflecting the crushing weight of displacement and diaspora drama that becomes part of our everyday.”
“The reality of Britain is vibrant multi-culturalism, but the myth we export is an all-white world of Lords and Ladies.”
Why I chose it: I was seeking out another book that is out in the US but apparently not in the UK (boo) so ended up browsing. This stood out to me as a way to start getting to know the country I’m now living in.
Review: Essay collections by a variety of authors can be a challenge to put together. You have all of these different voices taking on a similar topic in different ways. In this collection, which includes essays by professional writers but also playwrights, actors, comedians, screenwriters, poets, and publishers, there are a wide range of stories told. Some are more lyrical; some are pretty funny; others are quite serious.
But each one provides a hint, a glimpse, a snapshot in time of what life is like for someone who is not white and is living in England. The stories are not so much about the BNP or UKIP (although they do get dishonorable mentions), but instead focus on the ways in which people of color are treated as other in the UK. Whether its a lack of representation in media, or quiet xenophobia, or that feeling of not belonging anywhere, each author brings their own spin to the concept of the ‘good immigrant.’
I found some essays to be stronger than others, which is to be expected, but the stories being told were all worth learning, especially for someone who is entering a country without knowing a lot about its history. I mean, I’m aware that the British Empire was a thing, and that England invaded and colonized dozens of countries, but I’m not as aware of how racism plays out on a daily basis within the nation’s borders. I think this book was a good way to start in my education on this.