Wednesday, 13 May 2020

The Pride of an African Migrant by Massocki Ma Massocki

The Pride of an African Migrant by Massocki Ma Massocki
Published in Cameroon by Pierced Rock Press on the 4th 2020.

How I got this book:
Received a review copy from the publisher via NetGalley

My rating: 3 of 5 stars

Where is the human in migration? In an age of immigration as political posturing and propaganda, Massocki Ma Massocki presents a collage of dreams, journeys, tears, wills… even death. This book is an intimate retelling of lives and stories that strips migrants of convenient agenda-driven labels, baring them stark to the reader. With blood running in their veins, vulnerable to fear, driven by ambition—the emotive human is at the centre of Massocki’s latest work. The Pride of an African Migrant is a frank expository conversation for today and of all time. It is a book that every immigration player should read—from potential migrants to diplomatic staff, immigration officials, foreign policy advisors… every person with a migrant family member or neighbour.

The Pride Of An African Migrant is wide-reaching memoir which recounts not only Massocki Ma Massocki's own experiences of migration from Cameroon to the UK and back again, but also incorporates testimonies from other migrants he encountered as well as his own political and sociological ideas and philosophies. This book is not an easy read and I appreciated how it equally challenges the inaccurate beliefs of people risking everything in the hope of a prosperous new life in the UK, and the complacent ignorance of many British people who refuse to see the humanitarian disaster unfolding in our country. Massocki himself travelled to the UK to study, but a combination of unrealistic expectations and sheer bad luck left him to manage as best he could on the streets and, later, in a series of grim detention centres. These centres, where people are basically imprisoned without crime or trial, frequently for years, are the UK's guilty immigration secret. An out-of-sight-out-of-mind 'solution' for a problem of our own making, but which we are unwilling to face up to. The anthology Refugee Tales first brought these places to my attention and Massocki's memoir reflects those depressing stories.

What comes across primarily from The Pride of an African Migrant isn't, unfortunately, pride but anger. I could understand Massocki's sense of having been misled - mis-sold the UK, if you like - but where he gains an awareness of the futility of his predicament, others are blinded by their belief that a life worth living can only happen in the UK. I felt that this memoir is a valuable counterpoint to Abdul Musa Adam's memoir, The Journey, which I reviewed here last week. For every Abdul there is also a (or a dozen) Massockis and no clear sense of why Britain treats them so differently.

The latter parts of Massocki's memoir take more of a philosophical course as he discusses how the constant drain of talent and money from Africa could be reversed and what this could mean to the nations most severely affected there. While in the UK we see destitute migrants and imagine them to have always been so, in reality the costs to a family to smuggle just one person to Europe mean that these avenues are actually only open to the relatively affluent. I thought Massocki had good ideas around this subject although his personal anger at the overall system does frequently get in the way of clear communication with the reader. It is, understandably, a difficult balance to strike because The Pride of an African Migrant is essentially a memoir of his physical and emotional journeys so a completely dispassionate account would make for a very dry read. As it stands, I am glad to have had this opportunity to read the book and would recommend its reading to anyone who wants a fuller understanding of the migration crisis from an inside perspective.

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  1. This sounds like a heavy read, props to you for being to able to read a book like that right now!

    1. It was eye-opening to see the inadequacies of the UK immigration system from Massocki's point of view

  2. It must be so hard to balance anger with telling a story - I do think his angery is justified, and that he should and is allowed to feel it. But if it does cloud his narration and articulation I can see how that would be a problem.

    1. At times I wondered if the book would have worked better if I had listened to an audio version instead of reading it.