The Other One Percent: Indians in America presents a detailed analysis of people of Indian origin who either immigrated to the US or who are the descendants of immigrants — and who constitute just 1% of the population, doubling its percentage in the past 20 years thanks to a massive influx linked to hiring of skilled engineers in the high-tech industry. The authors highlight the striking differences in education, origin, and socio-economic level between the older and newer immigrants and especially investigates the remarkable number of entrepreneurs among the more recent immigrants. Fascinating, whether you live in one of the clusters of Indian immigration (like Silicon Valley) or not.
Tag Archives: immigrants
The dreamers in Behold The Dreamers are two undocumented immigrants from Cameroon trying to make it in New York City. They soon find themselves working for a rich trader’s family and they can see their American Dream within reach. But the 2008 recession is looming, which will deprive the trader of his lucrative job and expose his personal troubles while the immigration courts grind towards expulsion. The complicated relationship between the rich employers and their poor employees is captured perfectly, with the employers utterly unaware of the financial hardships of their chauffeur and housekeeper, and blithely assuming a relationship of equals while the employees carefully weigh each interaction to keep the jobs they desperately need. And there are no stock characters here: each can display kindness as well as hate, and has deep secrets.
The Wangs Vs. The World attempts to be a madcap road trip of a freshly bankrupted family from its no-longer home in Los Angeles to upstate New York, where the older daughter lives in a house that may be the only asset that escaped repossession. The five members of the family are appropriately different to generate all kinds of adventures, but I found it very difficult to find the tediously spoiled younger daughter, the romantically confused, hipster older daughter, the financially ambitious stepmother, the stereotypical entrepreneur-father, or even the sweet, sentimental son.
In the Language of Miracles starts with the complex premise of an Egyptian-American teenager killing himself and his (non Egyptian-American) girlfriend, and the town taking aim at his family, however well-integrated and accepted it was before the disaster. The story is told mostly from the point of view of the younger brother, who observes his culturally blind father, his grieving mother, and especially his grandmother, who has been staying with them for months trying to help his mother recover. Alas, the book read to me more like a set of didactic chapters about cultural differences than a story of suffering, with suffering rendered in groans and cliched declarations.
Let Me Explain You starts with a Greek immigrant’s strange email to his family that he will be dead in ten days — which is judged to be a prank until he disappears. The story moves between him, his three daughters, his ex-wife, his mistress, and his business partner (lots of women, most not talking to each other!), as well as between the US and Greece, skillfully unspooling from today to his childhood. It’s a family saga, albeit packaged in a deft series of flashbacks and with many unexpected twists.
It took me a very long time to get into the story, so if you decide to read it you will need to push past the apparently aimless first half…
Academy Street tells a banal story of an Irish woman who, having lost her mother early, immigrates to the US and undergoes many traumatic life events. I did not care much for the story but the writing, especially the first few chapters that describe her growing up with an angry, bereaved father in Ireland, is powerful, especially the very first chapter that describes her mother’s funeral from the perspective of a lonely seven-year old. It went downhill from that beautiful start, in my opinion.
The Book of Unknown Americans stars several families from Central and South America, some legal and some illegal, living in Delaware. The book struck me as contrived, with its carefully chosen cast from various countries, facing different political, economic, and personal challenges, all pulling together in the bleak American North, all brave and hard-working. It felt to me that the book was written for well-meaning school administrators to assign to high school students so they can check out the diversity box on the reading list.