We like books. It’s one of the things we talked about before lockdown when we were catching up over the tea round (on our floor: lots of coffee, an Earl Grey and a builders brew with a splash of milk) or standing around the office photocopier while it spewed out another court bundle. So what have people been reading over lockdown? We asked members of the team to send in their recommendations for books they’ve enjoyed. Novels, sci-fi, non-fiction, fantasy, memoirs – lots of different styles but they all have something to say about immigration, race, belonging and identity. Enjoy!
For his recommendation James, our solicitor in Liverpool said:
A friend gave me ‘East West Street’ by Phillipe Sands. It’s a family memoir and history which traces the lives of three Jewish men, Hersch Lauterpacht, Raphael Lemkin and Leon Bucholz, the grandfather of Sands and their common origins in Lviv in eastern Europe. Lauterpacht and Lemkin went on to make profound contributions to International Law and the Nuremberg trials. Less obviously historic was the contribution of an English woman, who faithfully lived a hidden life and rests in an unvisited grave and yet who made a life changing intervention in the life of Leon Bucholz. Sands takes great care to tell her story and it reminded me of what George Eliot said about the ‘growing good of the world being partly dependent on unhistoric acts’.
It’s a Muslim Fantasy series in a world of magical djinn society. It is ultimately a story about oppression, and what it means when your blood is considered more pure than someone else’s. The mixed-bloods in this world are treated terribly and without a second thought. They are considered second class citizens and even killed for crimes they didn’t commit, just to make the purebloods feel safer. The author writes about systemic oppression which in many ways mirrors our world today. Here’s a quote from the first book – The City of Brass: “It’s not just a word […] That slur has been used to demonize our tribe for centuries. It’s what people spit when they rip off our women’s veils and beat our men. It’s what the authorities charge us with whenever they want to raid our homes and seize our property.”
Without her commute to the office on the tram, it’s taken Amanda, our policy officer, a lot longer in lockdown to finish any book! She’s been dreaming of reading the Jhalak Prize longlist but has so far only finished Maya Goodfellow’s Hostile Environment: How Immigrants became Scapegoats.
It’s a book about the history of immigration policy. On the face of it a niche, dry read. It’s not (thankfully) because although the book stems from academic research, Maya’s writing is peppered with the lived experience of people subjected to immigration control – like Nora who lost the first decade of her adult life to destitution or Chuba still struggling with debts to pay immigration fees 20 years after arriving in the UK. It’s a book about the human cost of immigration control. It was written before COVID-19 and the upsurge in momentum of the #BlackLivesMatters movement following the racist murder of George Floyd. Maya’s analysis of the ‘good’ v ‘bad’ migrant narrative (last month’s low skilled worker as this month’s keyworker) and the way she picks apart the hypocrisy of ‘it’s not racist to talk about immigration’ seem all the more relevant given our experience of 2020 so far.
Natalia, one of our Manchester-based solicitors, recommended her favourite book of all time – Isaac Asimov’s The Naked Sun. She says:
It’s Sci-Fi, about migration to the stars but also it is a very interesting book about the future of humanity. Lockdown and working from home remind me of this book. It’s a brilliant novel of the future, and maybe not so far future, in a world of social isolation!!
We had more recommendations than we could fit in one blog. It seems that books (along with long walks, baking, eating sweets and having Friday night online catch ups) have helped us through the last six months. If you’ve got recommendations to get us through to Christmas, we’d love to hear them.