December 4, 2015
Tweet by JK Rowling helps fund a book on race and immigration
by Julia Fleischaker
Richard Lea at The Guardian reports that a donation and accompanying tweet from JK Rowling has helped fully fund a campaign for a book called The Good Immigrant. According to the fundraising page, the book will consist of fifteen essays from black, Asian, and minority ethnic writers in Britain:
Unless you have managed to transcend into popular culture, like Mo Farah, Nadya Hussain or the other ‘good immigrants’ out there. It’s a bad time to be a bad immigrant. My conversation with Musa Okwonga about this led to the very generation of this collection. I said I wished there was a book of essays by good immigrants. He reminded of the Chinua Achebe quote, if you don’t like the story, write your own.
In these fifteen essays about race and immigration, they paint a picture of what it means to be ‘other’ in a country that wants you, doesn’t want you, doesn’t accept you, needs you for its equality monitoring forms and would prefer you if you won a major reality show competition.
The book will explore why we come here, why we stay, what it means for our identity if we’re mixed race, where our place is in the world if we’re unwelcome in the UK, and what effects this has on the education system. By examining popular culture, family, profession and the arts, we will be looking at diversity and questioning what this concept even means anymore. The essays are poignant, challenging, funny, sad, heartbreaking, polemic, angry, weary, and, most importantly, from an emerging generation of BAME writers.
Spearheaded by author Nikesh Shukla (who will edit the anthology), the project was conceived out of frustration with the lack of diversity in publishing, regardless of how much lip service it’s gotten. As Shukla told The Guardian: “Basically, I never want to sit on another diversity panel again.”
While Shukla is enormously grateful to Rowling for the attention she brought to his project, he believes that it was just one small reason it was fully funded so quickly.
It shows that when you give people what they want, what they’ve been begging for – diverse voices – they’ll leap on to it.”
According to Shukla, the immediate response shows people are “tired of losing stories to a lack of representation, that if we continue to pass the buck to other people nothing will change, and that readers have voted with their pledge. By pledging for a book that hasn’t even been written yet.”
Julia Fleischaker is a former director of marketing and publicity at Melville House.