A £5,000 donation and tweet from Harry Potter author JK Rowling have pushed The Good Immigrant to its funding target.
A host of authors, including JK Rowling, David Nicholls, Jonathan Coe and Evie Wyld have powered a crowdfunded anthology of essays on race and immigrationto its funding target in just three days.
The Good Immigrant, which promises to bring together 15 British black, Asian and minority ethnic (BAME) writers to explore “why we come here, why we stay … [and] where our place is in the world if we’re unwelcome in the UK”, launched on the crowdfunding site Unbound on Monday. It was propelled to full funding after JK Rowling lent her support, pledging £5,000 and a tweet to her six million followers: “I think this will be an important, timely read.”
Speaking to the Guardian, Nicholls confirmed he was also one of the book’s 470 supporters. “It was a very modest pledge,” he said, “but I did want to support the project because it’s an important subject, and not something I know enough about.”
According to the anthology’s editor, author Nikesh Shukla, the project came about after participating on “a bunch of panels on diversity” and deciding to do something positive. “Basically, I never want to sit on another diversity panel again,” he said.
The project’s extraordinary success left Shukla “giddy with happiness” and feeling “a mixture of relief and vindication that there is such a fierce appetite for BAME voices out there”.
“I think I’d feel more nervous if the book was just by me,” Shukla said, “but given there are so many voices contributing, I know it’ll be sick. These writers are ek dum first class.”
Contributors to the collection will include Miss L from Casting Call Woe, who will be writing about the pressures of being a woman of colour and a jobbing actor; the poet and broadcaster Musa Okwonga, who will examine leaving the UK; and the playwright Vinay Patel, who will explore death in immigrant families from India.
While the collection’s meteoric rise to full funding can partly be attributed to “the darling JK Rowling’s patronage”, Shukla explained, “but also because people want these books. And aren’t getting them. It shows that when you give people what they want, what they’ve been begging for – diverse voices – they’ll leap on to it.”
According to Shukla, the immediate response shows people are “tired of losing stories to a lack of representation, that if we continue to pass the buck to other people nothing will change, and that readers have voted with their pledge. By pledging for a book that hasn’t even been written yet.”
John Mitchinson, co-founder of Unbound, said the publisher was “thrilled” to publish The Good Immigrant.
“The beauty of crowdfunding is that we can respond swiftly,” Mitchinson said. “The handwringing that usually surrounds this issue is replaced by positive action on the part of both contributors and potential readers and a new book is born.”
Shukla called on publishers to specifically ask for BAME authors to send them their work.
“Look for the authors,” he said. “Don’t wait for them to come to you. Make them feel welcome enough to send you their stuff. I opened my inbox and was flooded with wicked-sounding submissions. Imagine if I’d been an agent or a publisher.”
For Shukla, a truly diverse publishing industry can change more than the books on our shelves. “If we can make positive steps to increase BAME representation, then we can start to look at other hidden inequalities,” he said, “and books will be inclusive and representative of a voracious nation of readers who can see themselves and others in books.”
Source: The Guardian