Immigration Stories & Stories of Displacement
We all have immigration stories, and they all bear retelling.
After all, there were only 102 passengers on the Mayflower and there are currently about three hundred and twenty-five million Americans, not all of whom have ancestors who stepped off the boat at Plymouth Rock. And not even the Pilgrims went through Immigration and Naturalization.
The Pilgrims were displaced people seeking opportunity. First Nation people, who were already living in North America, have stories of displacement, do the African Americans whose ancestors arrived here as slaves.
According the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees, we’re now living in a time of unprecedented displacement worldwide, with over sixty-three million displaced persons; over twenty-one million refugees; and ten million people who are stateless. Almost thirty-four thousand people are forced to flee their homes daily.
By comparison, my family’s immigration story seems benign, though when I think about what it must have taken to leave a home and homeland carrying big hopes and small possessions, I come face-to-face with two realizations: First, my forebears must have found life in Europe so bad that uprooting themselves and risking everything seemed like a better alternative; and second, they must have had enormous courage to make the journey and set down new roots.
What’s your immigration story? How did your family become American?
I wonder what stories the children who’ve been incarcerated for crossing the border with their parents will tell about coming to America?
Summer Was the Season of Reruns
When I was a kid and television came into the house via a rooftop antenna, summer was the season of reruns, when networks repeated the previous seasons while the producers either filmed a new season or took a vacation, maybe both.
I don’t know how television works anymore. It’s decades since I watched it. At first, it was because I didn’t have the interest or leisure for screen time; now, it’s because I no longer know how it works.
In truth, I prefer to find leisure off-line. So I’m giving myself a break from generating new material by invoking the old TV technique of Summer Reruns and republishing some of my past posts here for a few weeks while I’m away. Today’s post is from November 23, 2016.
Thanks for being a reader of Living in Place. Look for replies to your comments in mid-July.
Like most people, I have immigrant and emigrant ancestors and I would love to know their stories – my family history research only deals in the bare bones. My grandmother left home in Dundalk, Ireland because (so my mother told me) she was fed up with working to fund the education of her brothers. She caught the boat to Liverpool where she worked as a cook for a while before heading south to London where she met and married my grandfather.
Her own uncle had left Ireland in 1883 at the age of 25, arriving in New York on 12 June. He settled in Massachusetts and is buried in Peabody – I paid my respects when I was on holiday in New England last autumn. He travelled at least twice back to visit family in Ireland – the last record I have of him returning to the USA is in December 1930 when he was 73.
I have family members originally from South America, India and Malaysia along with friends of Italian, Iraqi and Sri Lankan heritage. My life would be poorer without them. Long live migration!
We need to elect more female leaders in America and throughout the world. Women have a way of working things out to be win-win, no losers. I know my life is much richer because of my own immigrant history and by the relationships I have been honored to have with people from all over the world.