Certain Trumpy wall-o-philiacs seem to have forgotten that immigration is at the very heart of the American ideal. Those same alt-right douchebags have armed themselves with bushels of doctored statistics and phony stories to gin up a hearty phobia of immigrants in white Americans. Their goal is to foment fear in an effort to other immigrants, to build them into a monstrous “them” that “we” can then demonize and force out.
Of course, the single best way to combat these dingbats is to allow immigrants to tell their stories, to amplify those stories in any way we can, and to encourage environments where those stories are honored. Storytelling is how we turn “them” into “us” again.
Red Hen Press just released a book titled Two Countries: U.S. Daughters and Sons of Immigrant Parents — a collection of prose and poetry about the immigration experience from the perspective of second-generation Americans. Edited by poet Tina Schumann, the collection could not have arrived at a more perfect moment.
These are deeply personal stories, told with love and care. Dori Appel contributes a poem about the difference between her two sets of grandparents. One grandmother allowed her husband to leave her family and slowly build a life for them thousands of miles away; if the other grandfather had tried that, Appel writes…
my grandmother Sarah would have
gone after him in the wagon
and brought him home,
the way she did when they took him
or the Polish infantry.
These are the stories of families, each as unique as a heartbeat. Some came to America as refugees. Others came seeking opportunities. Others were more comfortable. But they all came, and they all love it here. As these stories illustrate — through comedy, through seriousness, through shockingly direct prose and through layers of metaphor in poems — they’re all as American as you or I.
This Saturday, January 13th, Schumann reads at Elliott Bay Book Company with Seattle poet (and recent Redmond Poet Laureate) Shin Yu Pai, who contributed to the volume a characteristically thoughtful account of visiting Taiwan with her aging father for "a reunion of the living." If your family, too, came to this rocky bit of nowhere in search of a better life, maybe you should go and share your story, too.
Elliott Bay Book Company, 1521 10th Ave, 624-6600, http://elliottbaybook.com, 7 pm, free.