Xenophobia and stories of immigration – why they matter more than ever

The book cover of Gold Diggers by Sue Nyathi - a brave and bold collection of stories about individual immigrants.
The book cover of Gold Diggers by Sue Nyathi - a brave and bold collection of stories about individual immigrants.

I think I speak for most people when I say that it’s with mounting horror that we’ve been bearing witness to all the atrocious news about the humanitarian crisis that the U.S. government has plunged itself into (will it ever end?!) .

There’s a story that went viral back in 2017, not only because of its content but because the headline alone resonated with so many people. 

The piece, which was published on Huffington Post, is called “I don’t know how to explain to you that you should care about other people” and was relevant back when it first came out and is even more relevant now.

 Because the truth is, how do I explain to you that you should stop looking at immigrants and refugees only as plunderers of resources or criminals.

How do we convince people like Trump and his administration to:

a) stop separating traumatised children from their parents
b) not dehumanise them any further than they already have by referring to them as infestations
c) stop lying and gaslighting the world into believing that their policies hasn’t devolved into a humanitarian crisis and
d) actually be decent human beings?

I truly don’t know. 

READ MORE: "These 'gatvol Capetonians' do not speak for me" 

Here in South Africa, while we haven’t resorted to such abhorrent actions, we do struggle with a fair share of Xenophobic violence which constantly rears its head.

Just recently TimesLive reported that five men who attacked and looted shops in KwaMashu, Durban in 2015 in acts of Xenophobia, have been sentenced to seven years in jail.

And who can forget the bloodshed in 2008 which left more than 50 people dead and more than 15 000 people displaced, according to Eye Witness News.

It’s been absolute hell to read through many social media threads and watch the manifestation of the death of empathy.

So how do we encourage privileged people to listen and understand? Reading’s a good place to start. There’s been many a study that specifically states that reading breeds compassion – and right now, the world certainly needs more of that.

Here are some books that’s definitely worth checking out:

The book cover of Gold Diggers by Sue Nyathi - a brave and bold collection of stories about individual immigrants.

The Gold Diggers by Sue Nyathi

A book that recently landed on my review desk is Zimbabwean author Sue Nyathi’s latest and timeous book, The Gold Diggers. 

Chronicling the journey of six Zimbabwean immigrants, each in search of a better life for themselves. The Gold Diggers is not only a story about the hopes, fears and dreams of each individual in the book, but delves into the hardships of what they endured just to make it through each day.

It’s a harrowing, but hopeful and heartwarming read that serves to remind us just how remarkably courageous immigrants are in the face of immeasurable obstacles and danger, and at its heart brings home the message that everyone, no matter their circumstances or where they come from, deserves to have an opportunity to have a better life and future. 

Buy a copy of the book from Loot.co.za

Always Another Country by Sisonke Msimang

I should start this off by telling you that if you haven’t listened to or watched her TED talk, you’re missing out big time. Seriously. Take a pause, watch the video below and then carry on. We’ll wait.

WATCH: If a story moves you, act on it.

Sisonke’s story is one that many, many South Africans can relate to. Born in exile and always moving to another country, but never feeling home, Sisonke’s journey and political awakening is set against an account of racism and xenophobia.  

In Always Another Country, Sisonke doesn’t only write about her childhood in exile spent in Zambia, Kenya and Canada, but talks about her college years in the States, finally returning home to South Africa and reflects on her political awakening and what it was like to be born into a life that was underscored by a history of inequality and racial prejudice.  

A must-read!

Buy a copy of the book from Raru.co.za

READ MORE: What it looks like when equality starts feeling like “oppression” for some white authors

Here I Stand – Amnesty international

A collection of short of short stories that focuses on a variety of human rights issues, Here I Stand covers issues that includes the plight of immigrants and refugees, LGBTQIA rights, domestic violence and war zones, to mention but a few.  

It’s a book that’s aimed at children and young adults and is the perfect kind of book to get if you’re looking to help educate them about the lack of equality that still exists in numerous parts of the world.

Buy a copy of the book from Raru.co.za

Americanah by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie

Chimamanda needs no introduction. The bestselling Nigerian author whose talks and books have garnered critical acclaim has never shied away from tackling issues about race, immigration and cultural individualism.

Americanah is a love story, but also a story of the immigration experience and commentary on American culture and racial divide.  It fearlessly delves into the politics of natural hair and what it really means to go back home when you were forced to leave due to political circumstances.

Buy a copy of the book from Raru.co.za

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