5 Quotes That Shed Light On The Immigrant Experience

I was in college when I first learned the difference between a country and its government. And also how the political concept of a nation is so far removed from the level of an individual. How do you define a nation? Who gets to decide where one nation ends and the other starts? The boundaries are fuzzy and keep changing. Who decides who will monopolize a stretch of land while others get labeled immigrants or refugees? Even though I’m still searching for concrete answers to all these questions, there are a few books that provided some clarity in the immigrant situation. Here is a list of enlightening quotes from them that helped me comprehend the immigrant experience better.

1. “While the astronauts, heroes forever, spent mere hours on the moon, I have remained in this new world for nearly thirty years. I know that my achievement is quite ordinary. I am not the only man to seek his fortune far from home, and certainly I am not the first. Still, there are times I am bewildered by each mile I have traveled, each meal I have eaten, each person I have known, each room in which I have slept. As ordinary as it all appears, there are times when it is beyond my imagination.”
Interpreter of Maladies by Jhumpa Lahiri

americanah2.”When you are black in America and you fall in love with a white person, race doesn’t matter when you’re alone together because it’s just you and your love. But the minute you step outside, race matters. But we don’t talk about it. We don’t even tell our white partners the small things that piss us off and the things we wish they understood better, because we’re worried they will say we’re overreacting, or we’re being too sensitive. And we don’t want them to say, Look how far we’ve come, just forty years ago it would have been illegal for us to even be a couple blah blah blah, because you know what we’re thinking when they say that? We’re thinking why the fuck should it ever have been illegal anyway? But we don’t say any of this stuff. We let it pile up inside our heads and when we come to nice liberal dinners like this, we say that race doesn’t matter because that’s what we’re supposed to say, to keep our nice liberal friends comfortable. It’s true. I speak from experience.”

Americanah by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie

the sun and her flowers by rupi kaur book cover3.“Perhaps we are all immigrants
trading one home for another
first we leave the womb for air
then the suburbs for the filthy city
in search for a better life
some of us just happen to leave entire countries”

The Sun and Her Flowers by Rupi Kaur

4.“I know a few things to be true. I do not know where I am going, where I have come from is disappearing, I am unwelcome and my beauty is not beauty here. My body is burning with the shame of not belonging, my body is longing. I am the sin of memory and the absence of memory. I watch the news and my mouth becomes a sink full of blood. The lines, the forms, the people at the desks, the calling cards, the immigration officers, the looks on the street, the cold settling deep into my bones, the English classes at night, the distance I am from home. But Alhamdulilah all of this is better than the scent of a woman completely on fire, or a truckload of men, who look like my father pulling out my teeth and nails, or fourteen men between my legs, or a gun, or a promise, or a lie, or his name, or his manhood in my mouth.”

Teaching My Mother How to Give Birth by Warsan Shire

5.“And then it occurs to me. They are frightened. In me, they see their own daughters, just as ignorant, just as unmindful of all the truths and hopes they have brought to America. They see daughters who grow impatient when their mothers talk in Chinese, who think they are stupid when they explain things in fractured English. They see that joy and luck do not mean the same to their daughters, that to these closed American-born minds “joy luck” is not a word, it does not exist. They see daughters who will bear grandchildren born without any connecting hope passed from generation to generation.”

The Joy Luck Club by  Amy Tan