Inspired Migrant Women in Ireland review: Fails to meet expectations
A collection of interview-style stories from 51 women who made Ireland their home
The editor of the book, Carol Azams, says this book is ‘a platform to profile the contributions of the writers to Irish society’.
Inspired Migrant Women in Ireland
Edited by Carol Azams
In a world where migrant women exist in the public domain mostly as objects of stories told by somebody else, there is nothing more promising than a book about migrant women written by migrant women themselves. The new book by the Skyline Publishers Inspired Migrant Women in Ireland is a collection of interview-style stories from 51 women who made Ireland their home.
Storytelling is one of the best ways to foster human connection, and it can transform an abstract and distant global issue into a reality of human resilience and courage at your doorstep. However, authorship dictates the ownership of the story, and ownership is the key, differentiating between being an object and a subject of a story. In this book, migrant women are moving from being an object to being the subject of their own stories of migration and integration.
Migrating to a new country can be a defining moment of a person’s life. Often migrants have to start from scratch – work-wise, family-wise and life-wise in general. The lack of family support and social networks, the legal obstacles to qualification recognition and secure migration status, with the added challenges of racism and discrimination make the journey from arrival to integration one bumpy ride.
This book tells the amazing stories of that bumpy ride. It also tells the stories of making it through each day, despite the challenging life circumstances caused by migration. No matter how slow their progress, each of the women featured is making her life in Ireland worth living, and is conveying this message in this book.
The personal narratives consist of stories at both ends of the spectrum of emotion, and everything in between. You will learn about the love migrant women give to Ireland, and the hate that they sometimes receive. You will learn about the joy of starting a new family, and the sadness of losing old personal connections. You will read about the pride in accomplishing professional goals, and the disappointment in wasted qualifications through underemployment.
The editor of the book, Carol Azams, says this book is “a platform to profile the contributions of the writers to Irish society”. You will not be short of stories describing how migrant women are enriching the Irish society in every possible way.
The core message of everyday resilience isn’t, however, easy to find; it has to be filtered out from the bulk of the stories and its variety of writing styles and forms. This book needs a commitment from the reader to systematically go through the 51 individual stories and fish out the value of this publication. The structure of the book is based on six multi-layered questions which the authors were asked to follow while writing their story.
The questions cover a wide spectrum of matters from personal journeys and challenges, to gender equality issues, to the ethnic background of the Taoiseach, and to the Ireland 2040 project.
At first, it was refreshing to see migrant women given a chance to break free from their usual classification as migrant-only people, and taking part in a discussion that is non-migrant specific. However, as I turned the pages I grew more and more frustrated with the way the book was structured. The nature of the questions and its wide-ranging subject matter made the answers detached from each other and, more importantly, detached from the personal stories of the women.
Although the answers were informative and insightful, they lack a human connection with the lives of the authors, and other migrant women, diverting the reader from the core meaning of the book.
Lack of diversity
As much as the book seemed like a promising publication which fills the gap for authentic storytelling of migrant women journeys in Ireland, unfortunately the final product cannot match expectations. The generous collection of 51 stories regrettably does not reflect the diversity of migrant women voices.
The list of under-represented women is rather substantial, but the obvious categories would be asylum seeking, undocumented, Asian or Muslim women. Additionally the editing of the book is far from perfect, detracting from both the reading experience and the strength of the narratives.
Some of the editing shortcomings include the random arrangement of the stories, a lack of coherence in writing styles and formats, which would have benefitted from stronger editorial control and issues with text formatting. Sadly, it has the overall effect of making the publication look rather unprofessional which runs the risk of pushing this important subject to the margin of the literary world and public domain.
Migrant women deserve a better, more representative platform. A platform that not only will give them an opportunity to be the subject of their own stories, but one that will amplify their voices so their stories will be echoing in the society for a very long time. This book isn’t that platform unfortunately.
Teresa Buczkowska is the Integration and Anti-racism co-ordinator at the Immigrant Council of Ireland.