Move on: The Next Great Migration

A history of migration opens eyes even if it doesn’t do what it says on the cover

The Next Great Migration is a misleading title. Nowhere in more than 300 pages does Sonia Shah – an insightful and entertaining science writer who produced 2016’s Pandemic – draw a practical conclusion about the future of migration. If that’s what you’re looking for, look elsewhere.

Fans of history, sociology and anthropology, however – this one is for you. Shah’s passion for learning and stories shines through as she documents the history of migration from some of our earliest ancestors – even animals.
Beneath this lies a profound purpose. Written by a member of one of the first Indian families to legally immigrate to the US, The Next Great Migration is ultimately about the critical value of movement and diversity to our society and planet. Shah’s account of how bias among the media, politicians and scientists promotes fear and misinformation is flawless. In the best way, it feels like a doctoral thesis.

The book’s real strength is the compassionate case it makes for better treatment of migrants, illuminating their plight and allaying common fears. In one especially eloquent passage, Shah argues that human migration is not the cause of, but the solution to social instability and climate change. It’s almost worth reading the book for this alone.

It is difficult to say at whom this book is really aimed. Despite its clickbait title, The Next Great Migration is unlikely to catch the attention of people who don’t understand the attraction of a ‘multicultural’ community.

Ultimately – unfortunately – that may not matter. This is a book about the value of unencumbered migration in a borderless world, published during a global pandemic that has halted travel across the globe. It’s horrific timing and it will likely limit this book’s audience. That would be a pity. This is a book with an essential message, and it’s well said.

––– Kirsten Levermore is digital editor of Dialogue