To celebrate World Book Day, we thought we would share a few award-winning immigration themed books from recent years that you might like to add to your reading list (alongside the Immigration Bill introduced to parliament today, of course!).
Here’s the ‘blurb’ on three books, covering issues of cultural loss, escape from war, as well as everyday life in a minority. Love, abandonment, belonging, cake baking… there’s humour and there’s heartbreak.
Exit West by Mohsin Hamid
In an unnamed city swollen by refugees but still mostly at peace, or at least not yet openly at war, two young people notice one another. They share a cup of coffee, a smile, an evening meal. They try not to hear the sound of bombs getting closer every night, the radio announcing new laws, the public executions.
Eventually the problem is too big to ignore: it’s not safe for her to live alone, she must move in with his family, even though the young couple are not married and that too is a problem. Meanwhile, rumours are spreading of strange black doors in secret places across the city, doors that lead to London or San Francisco, Greece or Dubai. Someday soon, the time will come for this man and this woman to seek out one such door: joining the multitudes fleeing a collapsing city, hoping against hope, looking for their place in the world.
Exit West is a journey crossing borders and continents and into a possible future; it is a love story from the eye of the storm. It is a song of hope and compassion. It reaches toward something essential in humankind – something still alive, still breathing, an open hand and a thudding heart under all the rubble and dust.
Exit West won the 2017 LA Times Book Prize for Fiction, the Aspen Words Literary Prize and was a Booker Prize Finalist.
The Good Immigrant edited by Nikesh Shuklah
How does it feel to be constantly regarded as a potential threat, strip-searched at every airport? Or be told that, as an actress, the part you’re most fitted to play is ‘wife of a terrorist’? How does it feel to have words from your native language misused, misappropriated and used aggressively towards you? How does it feel to hear a child of colour say in a classroom that stories can only be about white people? How does it feel to go ‘home’ to India when your home is really London? What is it like to feel you always have to be an ambassador for your race? How does it feel to always tick ‘Other’?
The Good Immigrant brings together 21 black, Asian and minority ethnic voices to explore why immigrants come to the UK, why they stay and what it means to be ‘other’ in a country that doesn’t seem to want you, doesn’t truly accept you – however many generations you’ve been here – but still needs you for its diversity monitoring forms.
Inspired by discussion around why society appears to deem people of colour as bad immigrants – job stealers, benefit scroungers, undeserving refugees – until, by winning Olympic races or baking good cakes, or being conscientious doctors, they cross over and become good immigrants, editor Nikesh Shukla has compiled a collection of essays that are poignant, challenging, angry, humorous, heartbreaking, polemic, weary and – most importantly – real.
The Good Immigrant was voted the British public’s favourite book of 2016 at the Books Are My Bag Readers Awards.
The Leavers by Lisa Hu
One morning, Deming Guo’s mother, an undocumented Chinese immigrant named Polly, goes to her job at the nail salon and never comes home. No one can find any trace of her.
With his mother gone, eleven-year-old Deming is left with no one to care for him. He is eventually adopted by two white college professors who move him from the Bronx to a small town upstate. They rename him Daniel Wilkinson in their efforts to make him over into their version of an “all-American boy.” But far away from all he’s ever known, Daniel struggles to reconcile his new life with his mother’s disappearance and the memories of the family and community he left behind.
Set in New York and China, The Leavers is a vivid and moving examination of borders and belonging. It’s the story of how one boy comes into his own when everything he’s loved has been taken away–and how a mother learns to live with the mistakes of her past.
The Leavers won the 2016 PEN/Bellwether Prize for Socially Engaged Fiction and was a finalist for the (US) 2017 National Book Award for Fiction.
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