A collection of essays about immigration and race in Britain has beaten bestsellers including Harry Potter and the Cursed Child and The Girl on the Train to be named readers' favourite book of 2016. The Good Immigrant, which was written entirely by writers of colour, won more than 50,000 votes from the public at the first Books Are My Bag Readers’ awards, reported The Guardian. The book, published in September, was edited by author Nikesh Shukla, who funded its publication on crowdfunding publisher Unbound in just three days. Coincidentally, JK Rowling was among a group of authors to show their early support, donating £5,000 to the cause last year. David Nicholls, Jonathan Coe and Evie Wyld also made pledges.
Shukla wanted to give a platform to British writers of colour, who he said “aren’t represented and struggle to find interest from mainstream publishers”, i news reported. He said the anti-immigrant rhetoric we are currently seeing in Britain is “toxic” and that he believes the book “give[s] the narrative around being ‘other’ in this country back to the people who are othered”. However, he said it wasn't a "political manifesto", telling i news that he began working on it long before the EU referendum in June and the subsequent surge in hate crime against migrants. “We’re not, the writers in the book, all spokespeople for our race and our communities,” he told i news, adding that the book allowed contributors to tell their own stories in their own way. He also urged the media to give writers of colour more "time and space", adding that: “The narrative around immigration is never owned by immigrants…and it’s our story to tell.” The amount of coverage that interim Ukip leader Nigel Farage is given, by contrast, is "astounding", Shukla said. Among the contributors to The Good Immigrant are journalist Bim Adewunmi, who wrote about tokenism in popular culture, and the actor and rapper Riz Ahmed, who recalled his annoyance at being stopped by airport security. Other books to win at the Books Are My Bag readers' awards in other categories were Grief is the Thing with Feathers by Max Porter (fiction), Reasons to Stay Alive by Matt Haig (non-fiction), The Road to Little Dribbling: More Notes From a Small Island by Bill Bryson (biography and autobiography), and The Essex Serpent by Sarah Perry, cover design by Peter Dyer (beautiful book award). If it's good enough for 50,000 voters, it's good enough for us. We'll be adding The Good Immigrant to our Christmas lists.