A New Collection Upends Conventional Wisdom About Migration

Parul Sehgal in the New York Times:

Dohra Ahmad

There’s a saying often attributed to the novelist John Gardner that there are really only two stories: A Person Goes on a Journey or A Stranger Comes to Town.

Which is, of course, the same story, just turned inside out. It’s the story of movement; of migration, its trauma or license, its challenge to one’s premises and moral coordinates, life and livelihood. In her Nobel Prize lecture, Toni Morrison recounted a folktale found across many cultures. A group of children visit a wise old woman, a storyteller or griot. “Tell us what it is to have no home in this place,” they ask. “To be set adrift from the one you knew. What it is to live at the edge of towns that cannot bear your company.”

“The Penguin Book of Migration Literature,” edited by Dohra Ahmad, has the startling distinction of being the first global anthology of migration literature, according to its publisher. Previous such collections have been “origin-specific,” devoted to particular diasporas, Ahmad writes; her book offers the opportunity for global comparison across history and genre. It includes excerpts from classics by Phillis Wheatley, Sam Selvon, Edwidge Danticat (who also contributes the foreword), Salman Rushdie, Marjane Satrapi and Zadie Smith, along with younger writers like the Nigerian novelist Sefi Atta and the Sudanese-American poet Safia Elhillo.

More here.