Mukherjee’s “Two Ways to Belong in America” Response

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Immigration and issues relating to the topic have remained the matters of debate in recent years. The article titled “To Ways to Belong in America”, written by Bharati Mukherjee, published in the New York Times on September 22, 1996, dwells on this issue. The author, a woman of Indian origin who has come to the United States in 1961 for studying “Creative Writing at the University of Iowa” (Mukherjee) later, in 1963, marries “a fellow student, an American of Canadian parentage”. (Mukherjee) In this short article, the author narrates her experience as an immigrant American and compares it with that of her sister, Mira, who has lived in the United States for over 35 years. The article’s interesting aspect derives from the two different perspectives from which the author perceives the issue, through the contrasting experience of two women who hail from the same ethnic and family backgrounds.

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Analyzing the article, a reader can find the author’s perspective that requires a wider and universal concept about the process of immigration. The author feels like a part of the community that she has adapted into. Here, one can relate to the conscious effort that she makes to merge into the society that her husband is a part of. Admiringly, the 33 years long married life with a Canadian husband seems rewarding for her. She always welcomes the emotional strain that comes with marrying a person outside of her ethnic and cultural background. The author and her sister have shared similar feelings about politics and current issues and discussed the economic and labor protection of immigrants. Even though both of them have earlier been holding similar views, Mira often is unwilling to accept the culture of the country where she works and lives in, though she is eager and content to accept the economic benefits and security it provides. However, she eschews the superficial pop culture. The author, through this illustration, seems to point to the fact that immigrants expect to the provided by the host country but most of them never remain patriotic or loyal to that country. This is a universal truth. Immigrants only want the benefits from the country they migrate to, but in most cases, their allegiance remains with the motherland.

Mira’s expression represents the attitude of thousands of immigrants and she feels manipulation and avoidance. Mira always give more emphasis on her own personality and her own abilities. She says; “If America wants to play the manipulative game, I will play it too” (Mukherjee). She lives in America for only her material or economic benefits and she is ready to go back to her Indian culture at any time. The article raises a serious political issue surrounding the policy formation towards the immigrant community in the United States. The author’s sister reveals her attachment towards her native land and she fails to overcome the traits of Indian tradition. One can clearly understand the author’s effort to expose the idea that her sister had enjoyed the facilities, economic benefits, and the accented English but she often goes to her ancestry. A remarkable thing is the article hints that Mira’s voice is not the only South Asian immigrant’s lament but millions who lived in America feel in the same manner. Through this article Bharati Mukherjee tries to explore her attitude towards the land of Canada and she ignores the problems of unwanted side effects of “nontraditional immigration.” However, she remains content because she has been able to overcome the emphasis of her culture in her life and adapt to the situation in a seamless fashion. This seems to have benefitted her because, no matter what the cultural differences are, she has a happy married life with her husband, who is not from her ethnicity. Granted, that the immigrants do sacrifice a lot for the host country, but they do receive more in return. That is the main reason why they remain here despite their feelings for their motherland. Even though the article describes the two different perspectives about the immigrant experience, the writer uses her pen to criticize the existing policies of immigration, and that forced one to think consciously. The author’s sister complains about her employer raising some relevant questions. The reader can find the words; “For over 30 years, I have invested my creativity and professional skills into the improvement of this country’s pre-school system” (Mukherjee).

In short, through the presentation of two various perceptive of immigrant experience Bharati Mukherjee endows with serious thoughts about international immigration and the attitude of immigrants towards the host nation. The views she expressed are realistic and worthy of serious attention.

References

Mukherjee, Bharati. Two Ways to Belong in America. New York Times. 1996.

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