I was not a rich kid. My father was a waiter at Arnaud’s – and he was an immigrant, so his experiences were different. He had this philosophy where he would work for five years, and take one year off. And that’s how he lived his life. He wasn’t a career guy – he was a life guy. One year, we followed the Rainbow Festival and the Rolling Stones across the country. We lived in a van…
The Trump administration’s executive order on immigration is heightening awareness of the challenges immigrants face getting into this country. Once here, children and teenagers can find themselves in circumstances completely out of their control, and those circumstances are now at the center of two recent young adult novels – our own Lynn Neary has the story.
Look! Riz Ahmed is over here on HBO, turning in a stunning, tell-your-friends-the-next-day performance as Naz, the aching center of The Night Of.
Look! Now Riz Ahmed is over there, playing Bodhi Rook in Rogue One: A Star Wars Story, defecting to the Rebel Alliance and breaking our collective heart!
Look! There’s Riz Ahmed delivering a blistering 16 bars about the immigrant experience on The Hamilton Mixtape! “To a galaxy far from their ignorance … immigrants, we get the job done”!
Wait, look! Now he’s home in London, gathering friends and fellow artists for passionate salons!
Look! He’s in the new Bourne!
Look, there he is on Girls!
Look, Riz Ahmed has been quietly pursuing every passion and opportunity for many years as an actor (The Road to Guantánamo, Four Lions, Nightcrawler), rapper (“Post 9/11 Blues,” “Englistan”) and activist (raising funds for Syrian refugee children, advocating representation at the House of Commons). To know him is to be inspired, engaged and ready to create alongside him. The year 2016 was when all the seeds he planted bore glorious fruit, and here’s the best part: he’s just getting started.
Look! We’re alive at the same time as Riz Ahmed! Look!
Why We Must Remember Brother from another Planet Now More Than Ever
The cult classic Afro-futurism film Brother from another Planet (1984)
directed by John Sayles captures the trials and tribulations of a black alien
escaping from his home planet to the foreign streets of New York City. During
the film, the “Brother” encounters many obstacles which portray his isolation
as a literal “alien” proving to be reminiscent of the immigrant experience in
America, especially today, amongst Trump’s reign.
The Brother arrives at Ellis Island, which has
historically been a gateway for millions of immigrants coming to the “Land of
the Free”. Upon arrival, New York seems almost apocalyptic, as the Brother is
welcomed by desolation rather than the usual collage of people, immediately capturing
the isolation of his status as an “alien”. It is not until he walks the streets
of Harlem, where he sees any signs of life, as he is surrounded by similar
looking black faces engaging in their everyday lives. However, the Brother has
limited contribution to such a scene due to his inability to communicate because of his
muteness, which resonates with the ‘voicelessness’ of immigrants in America. But despite this voicelessness, the Brother still remains an active part of his
environment as he still manages to navigate through his situations day by day.
Throughout the film, the Brother is being hunted down
in what seems to be an intergalactic slave chase, as two white men claiming to
be from the government are determined to capture him. I can’t help to be
reminded of the government today trying to hunt down immigrants entering the
country in hopes for a better life, as perhaps the Brother was seeking too. Therefore, the Brother from another Planet must be remembered for its portrayal of the intertwining of race, class, and immigrant status, all which have remained prevalent in America’s history, even in the year 2017. As the entertainment website The A.V. Club reviewed in 2003, the Brother from another Planet, ”uses [the Brother’s] alien status as a way of asking who deserves to be called an outsider in a country born of outsiders”, an answer which seems all too real for a black man from outer space.
(Susie) You know, I've been trying to figure out what to call myself for the longest of times.
I decided to do some reading up on it because I received an asks asking me if I was first generation/second generation.
I really did not know how to answer this because although I was born in Zambia. My mother moved to America when I was 2 years and I moved when I was 2 ½ years old. I have been raised my entire life as an American. I found my answer and it certainly puts me at ease to know that their is a term and hopefully others who feel the same and are having identification issues due to early immigration.
(ME): “Children who arrive in their early childhood (ages 0 to 5) are referred to as 1.75 generation immigrants since their experiences are closer to a true 2nd-generation immigrant who was born in the Country they live in: they retain virtually no memory of their country of birth, were too young to go to school to learn to read or write in the parental language in the home country, typically learn the language of the Country they immigrate to without an accent and are almost entirely socialized there.”
“The term 1.5 generation or 1.5G refers to two types of people. Individuals who immigrate to a new country before or during their early teens (Asher 2011). They earn the label the “1.5 generation” because they bring with them or maintain characteristics from their home country, meanwhile engaging in assimilation and socialization with their new country. Their identity is thus, a combination of new and old culture and tradition.
Depending on the age of immigration, the community where they settle, extent of education in their native country, and other factors, 1.5 generation individuals identify with their countries of origin to varying degrees. However, their identification is affected by their experiences growing up in the new country. 1.5G individuals are often bilingual and find it easier to assimilate into local culture and society than people who immigrate as adults. Many 1.5 generation individuals also, become bi-cultural, combining both cultures - culture from the country of origin with the culture of the new country.“
”So often when we talk about Asians in media, people expect Asian-Americans to be placated by Asian content. They don’t distinguish between Asian and Asian-American content — they’re very different, and that’s not to place a higher value on one or the other. It’s just to give an awareness to people that to lump us together as the same story is reductive to our experience. The fortitude it took to come here as an immigrant, with no support system in a new place, sometimes not even speaking the language, and what it must take to have the courage to build that kind of a story and home from scratch — it is a different experience. When Hollywood executives think Asian-Americans are placated by simply Asian roles, I think that’s reductive to what it means for our immigrant experience and how unique and special that is to us. Asians and Asian-Americans — not better nor worse — just different.” [x]
We’ve made a lot of strides in on-screen diversity in the last couple of years. However, one thing I need to see from TV right now, in this time when immigrants are being demonized just for existing – is more fucking immigrants. Look, I’m biased as fuck, because I grew up as a little immigrant kid, and you know you’re different from your friends, and that your family is different from your friends’ families, but you don’t know how to appreciate the gift of living and growing in two cultures yet. However, it’s honestly not about little kids seeing reflections of themselves on the TV screen right now – it’s about potato small-town midwesterners. whom the right wing has deemed “real Americans,” seeing immigrants on their screens as characters that they root for.
I want immigrant characters on every show – characters whose cultural background is an important part of them, but isn’t necessarily part of their plot. I want to see immigrants who are naturalized citizens and immigrants who are undocumented. I want to see immigrants who have accents and immigrants who moved as children and speak with the same California burn or Southern drawl around them. I want to see refugees, years after they’ve calmly settled into their new communities, living their lives.
I want to see first generation kids who were raised bicultural – Latinx characters like my coworkers, who speak perfect English and switch into perfect Spanish to share chisme; Chinese-American characters like the kids I went to school with, who visited their grandparents in China every break and went to Chinese school on weekends. I want to see first generation kids who don’t feel connected to their family’s culture at all – ones who feels sad about it, and ones who don’t.
I want to see immigrants whose families left their mother countries to escape religious oppression or to seek economic opportunity, immigrants who came to the US for school and stayed for love, immigrants who liked the idea of America’s wide-open skies, immigrants here from want and from necessity. I want, selfishly, for once in my life, to see something represent that a hell of a lot more Russian and Eastern-European immigrants are engineers (many of whom are here on H1-B visas…) and doctors than trafficked sex-workers, assassins, and mobsters.
I grew up in one of the most diverse places in this country, surrounded by families living every possible version of the immigrant experience, including my own. Immigration is only one story in a life full of them. If more people who find themselves swayed by right wing, nativist rhetoric could see more immigrant stories that aren’t about immigration, but the ordinary, extraordinary American life that comes after, they wouldn’t be so afraid.
Demand immigrant representation in all your media – it literally doesn’t have to change anything about the story, but it does add depth to characters AND help to humanize a vast, diverse group of people who apparently terrify a lot of U.S. voters.
I learned to read in
English in the 8th grade. As a child immigrant from Mexico
struggling to adapt to the American way of life, I had a hard time finding my
experiences reflected in the books given to me by my teachers at school or the
librarian at the public library. Closest were the works of the Chicana writers
I’d read in college, such as Sandra Cisneros and Helena María Viramontes, where
I found bits and pieces of myself. But I did not find books that spoke directly
to my experience as a child immigrant.
I did find books about
adult immigrants and the struggles that adults—like my parents— experience when
they arrive in the United States: low paying jobs, abuse and discrimination in
the workplace, fear of deportation, struggles to assimilate and learn English,
and the hardships of navigating and understanding the nuances of American
culture and society. But as a child, wasn’t I as much a part of the immigration
narrative? Weren’t my pain and heartbreak, struggles and triumphs, also worth
telling? Didn’t I also risk my life and fight just as hard for my dreams?
So I asked Dr. Kyle T. Mays (US History, Afro-Indigenous, and Indigenous Studies) about better terminology for describing the non-voluntary movements of groups to the U.S. (i.e. African slaves), because most terms (ex. “settlers”) imply false agency and intent, and are therefore grossly inaccurate. He told me that “arrivants” is currently the preferred term, and that there is an emerging area of study on the “arrivant” experience vs the voluntary immigrant experience. So I thought that might be useful to share here, because words carry implications of which we need to be constantly aware.
If you woke up in an America you don’t recognize, if you feel heartsick and scared, if you’ve found some smoldering hope inside of you, if you’re ready to get to work, if you’re fired up to fix this damn place, take Action.
We’ll be providing venues for you all to connect with each other and become your own collective agents of change. We’ll be listening to you and supporting you. Whatever we can do to help you determine the future of the world you live in, we’ll be doing it.
We all need to work together, and we need to work fast. When you’re ready to get to work, or if you’re already making action happen, be sure to post about it and tag it #takeaction.
Older boys often asked me to teach them “some bad words in your language”. At first I politely refused. My refusal merely increased their determination, so I solved the problem by teaching them phrases like ‘man kharam’ which means “I’m an idiot”. I told them that what I was teaching them was so nasty that they would have to promise never to repeat it to anyone. They would then spend all of recess running around yelling “I’m an idiot! I’m an idiot!”. I never told them the truth. I figured someday, somebody would
Firoozeh Dumas - Funny in Farsi: A Memoir of Growing Up Iranian in America
There’s nights when I crave the past intensely . When I want to sit by my grandmother and eat toasted bread with çaj mali. And others when I want to play with my childhood friends on the steps of my building. I’ve started to forget faces but I still remember what it was like to live in a different world. And then I think that world was better.
Nostalgia is a bitch because it always lies to me.
This criticism of how Hamilton places its title character in context might be legitimate if Hamilton weren’t, well, what it is. In essence, Hamilton is a postmodern metatextual piece of fanfic, functioning in precisely the way that most fanfics do: It reclaims the canon for the fan.
In this case, Hamilton’s canon is history, and the fan, Miranda, is doing a lot more than simply adapting it. Like the best fanfic writers, he’s not just selectively retelling history — he’s transforming it.
Hamilton historians are viewing Hamilton as part of the “Founders Chic” movement — but the musical doesn’t really fit into that trend
Alexander Hamilton has long been a divisive figure in the annals of historical study, but in recent years he’s become a focal point of a historical trend many academics and history enthusiasts refer to as “Founders Chic.” Founders Chic first appeared as a term in a July 2001 issue of Newsweek and quickly caught on to describe the sudden millennial trend of lauding the forefathers.
A year later, in a now-offline essay for Common-Place, Jeffrey Pasley observed that “Founders” really meant “Federalist,” as most of the acclaim was centered on David McCullough’s dazzling biography of John Adams, with plenty going to fellow Federalist Hamilton on the side.
Numerous other biographies of the Founding Fathers soon followed, as did a 2008 biopic based on McCullough’s Adams biography. Soon after that, Miranda famously conceived the idea for the musical while reading Ron Chernow’s 2004 biography, Alexander Hamilton, which focuses on Hamilton’s early life as a bastard orphan on the tiny Caribbean island of Nevis, and emphasizes the way his formative years shaped his relationship to the US.
Analyzing the Founders Chic trend in 2003, the Atlantic wrote critically of it: “In revering the Founders we undervalue ourselves and sabotage our own efforts to make improvements — necessary improvements — in the republican experiment they began. Our love for the Founders leads us to abandon, and even to betray, the very principles they fought for.”
But although Hamilton stems from one of the trend’s byproducts, its function as a text is to do exactly what the Atlantic calls for and critique the history the founders began. The real-life Hamilton’s experience, passion, and ambition resonated deeply with Miranda, who is deeply concerned with the American immigrant experience. Miranda immediately recognized a fellow hip-hop artist in Hamilton, in that the founder had all the earmarks of a Tupac or a Biggie Smalls: innate intellect, brashness, unrelenting ambition, and a grand tendency to start drama. (A much-admired piece of recent Hamilton fan art notes he will “fight anyone, including himself.”)
Like countless fanfic writers before him, Miranda clearly loves his canon, but he expresses that love by tearing the canon to pieces. Like countless fanfic writers before him, he remains as close to the letter of authenticity as possible while also completely deconstructing the worldview he’s been given. Miranda uses his text to not only have fun with and celebrate US history but to critique everything about that history — something his perspective as an American immigrant writing about another American immigrant puts him in a unique position to do.
Miranda’s fanfic interrogates the mythos of the American dream, tearing down the idea that “America” emerged from a single cultural identity that belongs only to white European immigrants and their descendants. This is something Hamilton’s fan base seems to grasp innately. “Do you understand what it’s like to live in a nation where you are made marginal and inconsequential in the historical narrative that you are taught from your first day of school?” writes Tumblr user thequintessentialqueer in a brilliant explication of Hamilton’s function as a text: “Whose rebellion is valued? Who is allowed to be heroic through defiance? … Violence is only acceptable in the hands of white people; revolution is only okay when the people leading the charge are white … Hamilton is not really about the founding fathers. It’s not really about the American Revolution. The revolution, and Hamilton’s life are the narrative subject, but its purpose is not to romanticize real American history: rather, it is to reclaim the narrative of America for people of colour … If you’re watching/listening to Hamilton and then going out and romanticizing the real founding fathers/American revolutionaries, you’re missing the entire point.”
Again and again, Miranda emphasizes that this version of US history is being told by those other immigrants — the ones who, as the show notes, “get the job done,” and the ones who had no choice about whether to immigrate at all.
And just as he emphasizes that “you have no control … who tells your story,” he reminds us that he’s telling the story of American history now — and he’s telling it his way.
If we rush to defend Hamilton in this instance, we can be forgiven: History is littered with examples of women and writers of color having their work subjected to a higher standard of inquiry and criticism than the work of their white male counterparts. And that is precisely why Hamilton exists as a text: to elevate and celebrate the dismissed and devalued.
As fanfic, Hamilton interrogates the text of American history from the “wrong” perspective to reclaim that narrative for those who were left out of it
Ultimately, critiquing Hamilton for historical accuracy regarding Alexander Hamilton’s actual place in history is a fundamental misunderstanding of what Hamilton is doing as a modern metatext and as fanfic. The entire point of Hamilton is that the real Alexander Hamilton was a man for the 1 percent, not the 99 percent. The act of presenting Hamilton as a man for the people allows Miranda — and by extension, the audience — to feel as though they are actively shaping the future by making the past all about themselves.
The fundamental objective of fanfic, especially when it is written by women, queer and genderqueer people, and people of color, is to insert yourself, aggressively and brazenly, into stories that are not about and were never intended to be about or represent you.
In this way, Miranda’s aggressive over-identification and use of a Federalist Founding Father to represent modern hip-hop and immigrant culture is precisely as subversive, and for many of the same reasons, as the woman-authored fic I read last week about a white male TV character who gets pregnant and gives birth to were-kittens.
Hamilton unites the story of American independence with black, Latino, and Asian actors who were excluded from it, and in doing so allows these excluded citizens to put themselves back into the narrative. Hamilton is not just a story of history — it is the story of the ongoing struggle to make sure that people of color, immigrants, women, and other marginalized citizens are included in the sequel.
Fans of Hamilton don’t flock to the musical because of the way it transforms the Founding Fathers.
They flock to Hamilton because of everything the Founding Fathers never were.