The Immigrants

I’m currently reading the novel Lady Oracle by Margaret Atwood and there’s a passage in it that I’d like to share and then write a little bit about. This paragraph can be found a few pages into chapter nine.

There were two cooks, a lethargic, resentful Canadian and a sprightly, bright-eyed foreigner, either Italian or Greek, I wasn’t sure which. This was always the way, in my experience with jobs. The Canadians who had jobs like that didn’t expect to rise any higher; despite the advantage of knowing the language and the terrain, this was the best they could do. The foreigners, on the other hand, were on the way up, they were saving money and learning, they didn’t intend to stay on the menial level. The foreign cook took half the time of the other and was twice as polite. He beamed as he handed the waitresses their plates of food, he scampered around in his ovenlike enclosure like a baking chipmunk, humming snatches of exotic song, and you could see the other man would have liked to kill him. 

This passage resonated with me because I am a child of immigrant parents who came from a small country in Europe to the giant country that is the United States of America and I watched them work extremely hard when we arrived. I believe that this little section correctly describes most of the lives of immigrants in the United States. My parents (and the many other immigrant parents I have met and consider to be second and third parents to me) are the most hardworking individuals that I have ever met.

These individuals all worked hard, backbreaking jobs when they first came to America and slowly worked their way up to higher paying jobs. It was not easy. They worked long hours, they learned English alongside their children, they had to watch native English speakers got promoted who were not as hard working, they had to smile and act polite to everyone, and they did it all in a new country with no support systems.

I don’t know how my parents did it. I don’t know how all the other parents did it. I don’t know how all other immigrants do it. But I want to say that I am proud of you. You are all amazing people and I hope that many more individuals and families get the opportunity to come and make an amazing life for themselves here in the United States or another country that they pick to create a better life for their family in.


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