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Immigration and Literature

Text: I can’t help thinking that every child of immigrants is born into this sort of loss, that loss itself is encoded in our genes, that every immigrant story is an elegy. Because the child of immigrants knows loss as a condition of life, we come to expect it, and because we sense that loss is imminent, we tend to cling as fiercely as possible to the stories we grow up with.”

 

This part of the text resonates with me the most because of the sense of alienation that I often feel when my Indian-American immigrant parents tell me of the life that they lived before immigrating to the USA. Hearing stories of the cultural traditions, practices, and the lifestyle my parents had and engaged in when they were in India makes me wonder about the culture shock and difference that they felt when they first immigrated here. The assimilation period compelled them to let go of some of their cultural traditions and adopt a new way of living — a Western way of living — that Americanized how they performed certain traditions. They believed that the sole way to adapt and be seen as an “equal” to an American was to act, dress, and behave the way an American would. It is saddening to see how the narration of vibrant stories slowly faded over time. These feelings contributed to a detachment from my roots and an obscurity of my culture, consequently making me question a part of my identity. 

A main aspect that led me to these thoughts is the role of language in my household. When I was younger, I was forced to go to classes that would help me learn my native language, Telugu. No matter the circumstance, my parents made it a priority to make me attend these classes, claiming that it was important that I learned about the history of my upbringing and connect with my relatives back in India. As a 7 year old, I didn’t think too much of these classes, and learned what I could. As I got older, and my parents got busier and more accustomed to living in America, taking these classes became a background to-do task to check off. I didn’t question it much, as I didn’t understand its true significance, and slowly stopped attending. Consequently, I gradually lost the ability to adeptly use my mother tongue. This created a communication barrier between me and my grandparents in India, and I blamed it all on myself. To this day, I tightly hold on to the fragments of memories I have that share insight into the life I would’ve lived if my parents never immigrated here, but I am eternally grateful for the opportunities that I have been provided because of it.

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