Sunday, March 1, 2009

"American Dreamer" by Bharati Mukherjee

In Bharati Mukherjee's essay "American Dreamer," Bharati recalls her cultural change from Calcutta, India to the United States and describes her transformation, as not only a self-transformation, but also a transformation of the cultural identity that exists in the United States. Growing up in Calcutta as a young child was quite different for Bharati, for her identity was already established. There was no such thing as lacking an "identity," but when she left Calcutta in the summer of 1961, Mukherjee had to find her identity. Her identity would no longer be handed down from generation to generation, but instead she would be an immigrant. When Mukherjee tells her story of immigration, she explains the vast land in Iowa stretching miles long, but what is of greater importance is the number of multicultural students that existed in Iowa City at that time. There was only one non-Christian, which was Jewish, one non white, which was African American, and 6 international graduate students. She was no longer a majority, but instead a minority in the women's residence halls. However within 35 years, Mukherjee states that the number of minorities increased dramatically in Iowa to 6,931. To Bharati this number indicated how the United Sates is not just a society that excepts one culture, but instead a society whose cultural values grow everyday. The "we" ,as stated in the constitution, is a "we" that is so culturally diverse.
Throughout her experience at the University of Iowa, Bharati fell in love with a young Canadian named Clark Blaise and soon ended up getting married. This was a huge transformation for Bharati because it represented a stray away from the accepted values of the Indian culture. After two years of college, Bharati was supposed to return to India to marry an Indian man who provided for her. However, her future as an American, rather than Asian-American represented that she was now another citizen enlarging the American cultural values.
Though Bharati felt accepted most of the time in the United States, when she moved to Canada with her husband, Bharati states "I thought of myself as an expatriate Bengali permanently stranded in North America because of destiny or desire." She felt as if she did not belong. Canada claims to be a culture similar to that of a "mosaic," but yet refuses to change its self-image to that accepting the images of all Canadians. Many Americans were accepting of cultural diversity, but some believed that all legal immigrants should be locked away. In 1994, Bharati recalls how the Lake County School Board in Florida taught its students that the standard European-American culture was of greater importance than all others.In the eyes of Bharati, we are a nation that has usually embraced a heterogeneous culture. We are a nation that honors the beliefs of all citizens in the United States. For As Bharati says, we are a culture that lacks any form of hyphenated descriptions, such as Asian-American, because we are all Americans living in the same homeland, "America."
The story of Bharati transforming from an Indian culture to an American citizen made me proud to say that I lived in America; to see how other countries do not accept the values of all other individuals of different cultures is such a disgrace. Whether a person is a minority or not, does not make them any different than any other white Christian living in America. As an American born citizen, often times I do not realize what it takes for immigrants to come to America, nor do I understand how much they went through to be an American. I honor all immigrants, for they have emerged themselves in a unfamiliar country; they have taken a chance. Switching
lifestyles is hard enough, but to switch lifestyles and not be accepted would be horrendous. Through Bharati's reading, I have learned that we are a nation that should continue to accept all cultures, because by embracing their cultures, we as a whole are becoming so much more culturally diverse.
The purpose of Bharati's reading is to show that the United States is not just a several different cultures, but instead a mix of all cultures to form one diverse unity.
After reading this essay, I am more understanding of the path immigrants take to become a citizen, and I have become more aware of the discrimination that they face in daily life. Bharati was a woman with courage; she did not care what people thought of her, nor did she feel the need to follow her father's path set in stone. She was independent, intelligent, and above all caring. Bharati is an idol to all other immigrants seeking to gain citizenship. She sees herself as a true American who worked to gain her rights.
This essay is also
structurally appealing, for Bharati first tells her story of immigration to the reader and her background as a child. She then moves into the body to prove how other nations do not acknowledge her as one of them, such as Canada, and she provides examples of how some Americans are not open to the acceptance of immigrants into the United States. And finally she concludes by saying how arrival will someday be a "gain," instead of a loss.


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