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  • Published on: 15th October 2019
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Abulqasim Alfaraj

Professor Joseph Schaub

UNIV 111-116


Common Grounds

Today we will be looking at three texts to find any similarities between the different authors and their scenarios. All three writings fall under the same roof of immigration. The first text is “Tell Me How It Ends: An Essay In Forty Questions” which takes us through the experiences of the author, Valeria Luiselli, who’s an interpreter for child migrants who come from Central America. The second text is written by Tom Gjelten, with the title “Should Immigration Require Assimilation?”. It talks about the debate whether immigrants should be forced to adapt to American culture or be free to keep their beliefs and traditions. The third and final piece of work we’ll compare is called Hope and Home, told through the pen of Rabih Alameddine. This writing is about a series of interactions and interviews Alameddine has with refugees at different camps.

Two of the three writings were connected through the idea of being unwelcomed. The two interpreters Valeria Luiselli and Rabih Alameddine, authors of Tell Me How It Ends and Hope and Home respectively, explain how the immigrants and refugees were not welcome in their new places. Luiselli brings up this topic multiple times in her writing by showing how the public of the receiving nation reacted. She explains how the children are considered “a hindrance to institutions and unwanted intruders by a large part of the society” (44). She also describes the effort some Americans put into making the immigrants feel unwelcome by protesting and campaigning against their arrival as explained on page 14 “show their dismay of the situation”. Alameddine writes about a similar situation that takes place in Lebanon with the Syrians, “Some Lebanese have been welcoming, others not” (13). Alameddine goes on to say how villages have put up signs that say “We ask our Syrian brothers to refrain from any movement in public spaces”(13) and continues by explaining how that essentially translates to “stay in the homes you don’t have”(13). Suffice to say that a portion of Lebanese were not very enthusiastic of Syrians coming into their country. Another aspect to immigrants feeling unwelcomed is by how they were labeled. In Tell me how it ends, it is mentioned how immigrants are called illegal by the nation, as if they had committed a crime to seek safety. In contrast to all this, Tom Gjelten, the author of Should Immigration Require Assimilation?, explains how immigrants were in fact feeling welcomed. “The new citizens nevertheless seemed to feel welcomed” (144). But keep in mind that Gjelten was writing about people who have just received citizenship, in oppose to the illegal aliens.

Another common topic found in the texts was the sense of home. In Hope and Home, Alameddine explains how impressive it was to see the “care and effort that went into making it feel homey”(17) by the refugees in their new living space. They did their best to try and recreate the home they had previously occupied. Whether it was buying the same tea brand, or making traditional decorations, “the tradition of hospitality must be maintained” (18). Similarly, Tom Gjelten talks about the concern of Spanish-speaking communities, who “were not assimilating”(145) meaning they kept their traditions and customs even when they were away from home. These two texts almost nod in approval to each other in regards to how the newcomers try to maintain and keep their pasts. In Tell Me How It ends however, the immigrants are in a hurry to forget everything from their previous homes. This is because they don’t have many particular fond memories of their homes. Most of these immigrants are escaping the “extreme violence, persecution and coercion by gangs, mental and physical abuse…” (12).

The third idea that is shared between the writings takes us to the reason why some choose to immigrate, and more importantly look at the big picture as to what the future plans and gains are from this journey. When Luiselli asks the children “Why did you come to the United States?”(7), the majority of the responses were seeking safety from whatever violence and abuse they were facing back home. They came here for a better and safer future. Tom Gjelten’s explanation to the reason of immigration, as mentioned on page 144, “the place where imagined futures did not seem hopelessly out of reach”. In the writing, he explains how some immigrants are coming to the United States to benefit from the economic opportunities found here that are unthinkable back home, while others come to start a new national identity (144). Alameddine’s interviews show almost the complete opposite of what both Gjelten and Luiselli wrote. These people were in a state of uncertainty, not sure when they will be able to go back home. Some intended to go back, while others believed it would be best to find a new place to call home. As mentioned in the text, “everyone assured me that as soon as the situation was settled in Syria, they were moving back” (19). Some Syrians were eager to get back home, while others like Ahmad M. questioned the idea of hope, and when asked about the possibility of Syria returning to normal, he answered “it will never happen” (19).

In conclusion, we now understand that most immigrants are not necessarily welcome in the places they wish to call home. In addition to that, certain circumstances such as current legal status affect how someone is received. We can also understand that most immigrants or refugees like to take their culture and language with them, which could bring up conflict as to how they are not blending into society. Finally, we can now see that most immigrants are travelling for a better future. Whether they’ve suffered from war, abuse or crime, they all strive for a better life. While some are open to the idea of going back to their countries if the situation improves back home, others are determined this is the step in the right direction. This analysis leads me to ask, how important is it for immigrants to integrate with their new home? Why can’t everyone be free to live how they wish? When will we stop judging people based off their legal status? And lastly, will the situation for immigrants ever improve?  

Work Cited

Luiselli, Valeria. Tell Me How It Ends: an Essay in Forty Questions. Coffee House Press, 2017

VCU. Space and Place: Focused Inquiry I & II. Macmillan Learning Curriculum Solutions, 2018.

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