I am one of the 41 million Americans in the U.S. today (out of roughly 319 million, or about 13 percent) who were born outside of the United States. One of the great themes of my life was been a deep love of this country, a strong yearning to be rooted here down the generations.
While that remains unabated, here in the second part of my life I am also beginning to understand that a desire to assimilate doesn’t erase the experience of being from somewhere else. Nor should it. That is what is magical about this wonderful experiment we call America. Most everywhere else in the world, populations are homogenous and stay relatively close to where they’ve been for generations (although, of course, with the advent of air travel and other such forces, that’s changing). Here we created a nation founded on the idea of calling in the best and the brightest from all over the world and creating something new. It hasn’t been easy by a long shot, and we’re still feeling the growing pains, but it has highlighted so much that is wonderful about humanity. It is this immigrant experience that makes the United States unique.
I was excited to have THE SECRET SIDE OF EMPTY included in this local list about the immigrant experience. Seeing such a comprehensive list reminded me that there isn’t one “immigrant experience,” but millions, each a small chapter of the American story. That so many have been given voice speaks to the power of the experience, but also to the power of America. I grew up hearing “only in America,” both in a complimentary and derogatory fashion. Here I say it with pride, “Only in America is this list possible.”
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