America is a one-of-a-kind country because it was founded and developed by merging of cultures from all over the world into one, creating a society which has surpassed, in most aspects of life, the countries of origin of these very cultures.
Such synthesis of cultures brought forth a particularly great contribution to the harmony of faith and reason, creating a unique ideology of American society. America is a melting pot of various groups of immigrants, who strive to preserve their cultures, while still being a part of American society. Strong ties to one’s country of origin is an inherent trait of all humans. When we are born, we become a part of a family, a clan, a religion, a culture and a country. Assimilation into a new society, culture, or country is equivalent of breaking some ties with one’s own beliefs, instilled into them from early childhood and making room for a new beginning, and building up acceptance and understanding of the new culture. Immigration is a difficult process, which can be painful and challenging and cause an assimilation crisis for people who cannot fully accept American culture as their own or struggle in pursuit of the endless opportunities America has to offer.
The story “Two kinds” tells us about a young girl, who immigrates to the United States from China with her mother and experiences an identity crisis and struggles to find her sense of self. The girl’s mother desperately wants her to be the best, and become a part of a group of genius and gifted children who are destined to have a prosperous life. The mother’s motivation becomes a reason for their immigration to the United States, the land of opportunity, where everyone can be what they want to be. The author establishes quite different perspectives from the mother and daughter on what is the best way for the girl to advance, considering she does not share her mother’s opinion and does not associate herself with the genius. The mother’s high expectations cause her daughter a lot of pain and suffering because she realizes that she is not what her mother wants her to be: “This girl and I were the same. I had new thoughts, willful thoughts, or either thoughts filled with lots of won’ts. I won’t let her change me, I promised myself: I won’t be what I’m not.” (TAN Amy, 384) The angry tone in which the story is told in the beginning changes to a softer note towards the end, when the girl becomes older and understands high aspirations of her mother, who strived to make her future better.
The story “The Namesake” resonates with the story “Two kinds” about assimilation of a family of immigrants from India. They try to preserve their cultural values and traditions in a new unfamiliar world and pass these values to their children. They named their first baby boy by a Russian name in honor of a famous writer whose book saved the boy’s father’s life in a deadly accident. The boy goes through a lot of troubles in a school because of his name. He hates his name because it does not represent who he truly is; it is neither Indian nor American. He believes that his name is not in tune with his personality. He is a traditional Indian boy who struggles with cultural identity due to his unique name, which later transforms into an American name. However, he still struggles with a sense of belonging to his family, culture and society. In this story, similarly to “Two Kinds”, a reader can note the presence of assimilation crisis experienced by the main character when trying to fit in into a new culture and society. “The Namesake” is a great example of the kind of challenges people face when trying to become a part of a new society. Whether people like it or not, they are subject to interaction with other social groups in their daily lives, and often their quality of life depends on how well they are able to assimilate and get along with others. The process of immigration can disassociate a person from their traditional ways of life, and ties to a clan, religion, as well as culture and country of their origin.
The third story, “Brave We Are” sets another example of a struggle to assimilate. The author describes a traditional family of immigrants from Pakistan. The mother of the young boy tries to explain to her son the meaning of the word “hybrid” which he improperly applies to a girl, who is their neighbor. However, the mother’s explanation is a combination of different thoughts which does not come close to satisfying boy’s inquiry. She worries that her son is asking questions about mixing races too early. She is afraid that her childern have too quickly began to assimilate into the American culture and will lose ties to their own culture. The fact that her oldest son easily remembers the texts of modern, popular American songs, but cannot memorize poetry of the greatest Urdu poet, deeply frustrates and upsets her. She feels responsible for her son not being able to carry on their traditions and culture: “My children like spaghetti the way it should be, the way it is, in America” (Nagvi, 929). Assimilation is more than adaptation to new ways of life, it is like a revolution. The Pakistani mother has to “rebel” against who she is in order to join the new society and these changes involve more than a simple adjustment of behavior or thoughts. Rather, these “changes” call for a true inner assimilation that goes beyond the surface. The complexity of this inner revolution is the reason why it takes one or two family generations for the immigrants to fully assimilate, depending on the strength of attachment to the culture and country of origin.
Assimilation is a big part of becoming an American for newcomers from all corners of the world. Most immigrants are grateful for the asylum and countless opportunities America has to offer, but they are often reluctant or have a difficult time assimilating into the American culture. Naturally, immigrants who gather in cultural diasporas across America, assimilate longer than immigrants completely immersed in the multicultural environment. Immigrants with a more secular religious beliefs, are often able to assimilate quicker than those who follow rigid religious bounds. A combination of reason and acceptance forms an alliance, where through open-mindedness and kindness people are able to overcome challenges brought forth by immigration. Assimilation and retaining one’s authenticity is possible, and is welcomed and celebrated in the United States. I believe that taking such approach to assimilation is favorable to all immigrants, as it allows them to retain their identity, while becoming citizens of a nation that stands united and together builds a prosperous future for all.
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