Monday, October 29, 2018

Distiller: Doni Faber
Rating: 4/5 Stars
Cure for: The Wall

America Deconstructed
by Chaithanya Sohan and Shaima Adin
Motivational Press, Inc
Feb. 12, 2019
(183 pages)

America Deconstructed is a project two immigrants who ended up at San Jose State University edited together. They interviewed other immigrants and transformed the interviews into compact essays.

The work gives a humanizing face to the experience of immigration, something sorely needed in this time. While each story is different, they all share how difficult it is to leave their home country in come to America. There is no sense of malice, no sense of a desire to displace others that some born in the U.S. seem to project onto this influx of new people. Instead, the immigrants include endearing details of adjustment such as being overwhelmed by all the choices when ordering coffee for the first time or learning how to drive a car. Other struggles include not just overcoming language barriers, but also such things as loneliness, navigating different fashion trends, food preferences, and overcoming cultural barriers such as racism that they didn't realize still existed in the United States. Some of the immigrants had the socio-economic background readers might expect, working hard to create a better life for themselves. Others had to adjust to no longer having servants do their work for them. In every case, these people's journeys seem brave.

One thing that I wish the editors had done to make the structure of the book a little clearer is to highlight the name and country of origin at the beginning of each interviewee's chapter. Most of the chapters include this information somewhere, but it would be more accessible if this information were provided from the get-go. When the diversity of countries of origin is considered: Afghanistan, Nigeria, Kosovo, India, Mexico, the U.K., Sierra Leone, the Philippines, China, and Ghana, it makes sense how richly varied newcomers to America would be rather than flattened by the seeming uniformity on the receiving end of immigration.

Although this book is slim, it took me quite some time to get through it. I guess it gives a lot to chew on. Despite having a few language idiosyncrasies, this is the best writing I've read from an author who has contacted me directly about writing a review. I recommend it as beginning reading about immigration to be followed by more in-depth narratives.


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