Do We Need Migrant Literature?

 

The world is a melting pot,  an ever-increasing paradise of voices that need to be heard if tolerance and understanding are to reign for peaceful coexistence.

Migrant literature, while evident through powerful voices, needs new sounds to add to the colourful history that should be shared if we are to live side by side.

Knowledge is necessary to foster understanding and compassion to move us closer to our innate humanity. Living in international communities in the 21st Century is a goldmine of multiculturalism that offers rich insights on culture and values.

What better way than to extend understanding through the literature we read and write. This could be a work of fiction, a non-fiction book, or a blog that creates connections to our neighbours near and far.

Literature is and should continue to be a vehicle that dispels ‘otherness’ or the ‘outsider’

 

Samantha Govender

I have for you today a reader’s perspective on what she enjoys about migrant literature in Australia. Samantha Govender, author of the blog site, Currychick – Spice it Up, covers everything from culture, history, education, lifestyle, glorious food, expat tales and more. She graciously agreed to answer my questions on migrant literature.

 

 

What is your home country?

‘I hail from the striking, picturesque country of South Africa nestled in the southern hemisphere.’

 

Why did you choose to migrate to Australia?

‘My LIFE AS AN EXPAT series on my blog charts that moving away from one’s country of birth is truly one of the most daunting life-changing experiences anybody can undergo. The crime and general political climate in South Africa were unnerving so the opportunity to move was an enticing prospect.  Many of my colleagues were seeking greener pastures and Australia seemed to be offering that.   When my husband finally agreed, I grabbed the bull by the horns and took the leap to leave my motherland.  In a nutshell, we sought a better life and future for our two children.’

 

What do you enjoy about Australia?

‘Beautiful one day perfect the next.’  Truly, I do not exaggerate when I call this country ‘heaven on earth.’  I love the people, the food, and the freedom. The safety and abundant, carefree living that comes with first world living, is supreme.  Australia has enveloped my family and made our move worthwhile. I feel blessed to call this magnificent place home.’

 

Name the three things you miss about South Africa?

‘The food ‘Bunny Chow’ (yum! read about it on my blog); the feeling of belonging and not having to constantly prove yourself; the culture in addition to friends and family that gives you a deep sense of belonging. I think only a migrant will cognize the profound need to belong.’

 

What is your genre of choice today? Has it changed in the last ten years?

‘My job is intensive so reading is my ‘go to’ place.  As much as I prefer print books, I am steering along with modern technology.  Thus, I use my iPad and Kindle a fair bit to download genres such as politics, health, well-being, and romance. Currently, I am reading Shashi Tharoor’s Inglorious Empire while hankering to read Mala Naidoo’s sequel Vindication Across Time. Finally, to answer the last part of the question, I would say yes. As I have grown older my taste for more thoughtful, serious reading has increased somewhat.’

 

What role does migrant literature play in Australia for you?

‘Migrant literature is necessary for establishing connections, to feel you are not alone in fears, hopes, joy, cultural expressions etc. Recently I listened to acclaimed novelist Salmon Rushdie whose perspective that some literature is timeless, mirrors mine.  Accordingly, I agree that migrant literature is vital in our current ever-changing society.’

 

Do you believe migrants should give voice to their culture and values through literature and other art forms?

‘Absolutely!  I think it’s the best channel and a means of expressing our story to others.  Be it a humble blog like mine or a letter to the editor; voicing our opinions as well as sharing our experiences are paramount to us being noticed and valued.  The trials and tribulations in addition to the magnificent experiences migrants undergo must be heard by all.  Literature and art open this communiqué giving us the ability to speak and more importantly to be heard.’

 

What other migrant voices would you like to read about?

‘I am always keen to try out new authors and meet people who have made life-changing choices in their migratory or other journeys in life.  I recently had an insightful conversation with a co-worker from South Korea who has made Australia home.  No doubt listening to and embracing migrants and their perspectives is an evolving, unending education.’

 

Samantha has summed up her perspective on being a migrant that reverberates at the core of the migrant’s experience.

What I take away too, as a writer and migrant, is the primal need to belong, to feel acknowledged and understood.

Making the decision to relinquish the land of one’s birth to create a new one, many thousands of miles away, in the hope of a better future, comes with an avalanche of emotions and challenges. This decision to resettle is a  rational one. Emotions kick in upon separation from the familiar and loved. Being rootless places a huge burden on inner resourcefulness to find one’s niche, a place in the sun of life again.

It is this very need that has compelled me to give voice to these ideas through my characters in Across Time and Space and the sequel Vindication Across Time, in a bid to shed light on the migrant mindset through strong female characters.

 

‘Once we become aware of the universality of our angsts and joys, we  are one under the sky of humanity’ ~ Mala Naidoo

 

What are your views on the role of migrant literature in society today?