Migrant voices echo with wit, nostalgia

Jeffrey Fleishman in the LA Times:

Edited by Dohra Ahmad, the book [The Penguin Book of Migration Literature] explores the lives of people in motion: a slave in a ship’s hull, an unaware young woman venturing from Ukraine to the United Kingdom and Indian-born Deepak Unnikrishnan, whose chapter from “Temporary People” lists the faces of migrants: “Lorry Driver. Shopping Mall Cashier. Carpet Seller. Hitman. Junkie. Flunky. Fishmonger.”

“Part of my purpose with this anthology is to break the United States’ monopoly on the idea of being a ‘nation of immigrants,’” writes Ahmad, an English professor at St. John’s University in New York City. Her introduction reads with a prophet’s passion and an academic’s sense of order. Ahmad calls for “understanding migration within a global scope” to explore commonalities and differences and to dispel misconceptions by empathizing with the pressures and desires that tug people away from their homes.

The affecting power of “The Penguin Book of Migration Literature” — the publisher calls it the first global anthology of migration literature — is in its intimacies and observations. An immigrant is often keener-eyed than a native at spotting a nation’s character, cruelties and inconsistencies. These excerpts resonate when read alongside today’s headlines of Kurdish refugees streaming out of Syria, families escaping shootings and squalor in Guatemala and Honduras and Africans fleeing drought, broken governments and the harsh consequences of climate change.

More here.