The Good Immigrant was a landmark book that feels even more essential now than when it was published. Equally essential is this second Good anthology, which collects essays by first- and second-generation immigrants to the USA, in which they explore what it's like to be an "other" in an increasingly divided nation. Contributors, including Chigozie Obioma, Jenny Zhang, Fatimah Asghar and Teju Cole, share powerful stories of living between cultures and languages as they figure out who they are, and where they belong.
Expository pain is relatively easy to record; the narrative of overcoming or succumbing creates meaning even when the lived experience of that pain is senseless. To write a traditional essay on the immigrant experience is to claim authority on what it means to be an immigrant while disclaiming the confusion of what it means to be a person. The strength and wisdom of this collection is its elemental weakness – that no one can divorce what makes them a person from what makes them an immigrant, and that no essay can quite capture all the confusion and ambivalence that comes with life. Luckily, many writers are hard-wired to accept irresolution. As Porochista Khakpour writes, “Learn to respect more than resent those parallel planes of living and the rendering of living”. The question remains, however: will the reader accept the same?
The Good Immigrant USA follows the publication of The Good Immigrant in 2016, which comprised pieces from 21 British writers of colour. The title itself is tongue-in-cheek, calling attention to the absurdity of using “good” and “bad” to catalogue millions of individuals...That this is a published book, not an online collection, is a telling decision. These are the sorts of essays you might typically read on a website: they feel urgent and current, and the business of book publishing takes an age in comparison... This book does what books can do better than other media: it devotes space to the shadowy ranges, to the subjects that are not easily graspable – the ineffable, varied, certainly never simple experiences of being an immigrant.