In an era in which immigrants are increasingly demonized, Penguin assembles a well-curated collection of literature about the migration experience.
Edited by Ahmad (English/St. John’s Univ.; Landscapes of Hope: Anti-Colonial Utopianism in America, 2009, etc.) and featuring an eloquent introduction by MacArthur fellow Edwidge Danticat (The Art of Death, 2017, etc.), this compact but eye-opening book provides a sampling of literature, memoirs, and other writings about the experience of being an immigrant. To that end, the collection is arranged in a sequence that mimics what immigrants go through, starting with a section about “Departures,” followed by “Arrivals,” “Generations,” and a single entry for “Returns,” penned by Egyptian migrant Pauline Kaldas called, fittingly, “A Conversation.” The breadth of Ahmad’s selections is impressive given that she doesn’t have a ton of space with which to work. “Departures” includes poetry from West Africa as well as more traditional and familiar entries from such authors as Salman Rushdie (“Good Advice Is Rarer Than Rubies”) and a selection from Mohsin Hamid’s bestselling novel How to Get Filthy Rich in Rising Asia. The “Returns” section is equally diverse and includes poetry from Jamaican Claude McKay, a selection from the late E.R. Braithwaite’s classic novel To Sir, With Love, and the celebrated writer and illustrator Marjane Satrapi’s poignant graphic memoir Persepolis 2: The Story of a Return. Finally, in “Generations,” Ahmad presents poetry from Native American author Joseph Bruchac, two selections by David Dabydeen, and an excerpt from Zadie Smith’s White Teeth. Given the breadth and depth of the genre, this is a first-rate starting point for exploring migration literature and is almost certain to be taught in schools in the near future. Don’t miss the “Suggestions for Further Reading and Viewing” at the back of the text, which is also excellently curated. The book also includes work by Olaudah Equiano, Eva Hoffman, Dinaw Mengestu, and Hanif Kureishi.
A welcome, pocket-sized introduction to migration literature.