Two Ways to Belong in America
October 3, 2012
Mukherjee states, “In one family, from two sisters alike as peas in a pod, there could not be a wider divergence of immigrant experience.” (p. 282). Bharati Mukherjee was born and raised in Calcutta, India and immigrated to the United States in 1961 to earn an M.F.A. and a Ph. D. in literature. In “Two Ways to Belong in America,” Mukherjee addresses the issues that confront immigrants in America.
In this passage we see how two of the same people can suddenly feel or experience the same thing in two different ways. Mira and Bharati immigrants from Calcutta have lived in the United States for some 35 years. The Mukherjee sisters find themselves on different sides in the current debate over the status of immigrants. Bharati is an American citizen and Mira is not. When the Mukherjee sisters moved from India they were almost identical in appearance and attitude. Their original plan was to endure two years in America, secure their degrees, then return to India to marry the grooms of their fathers choosing. However, Mira ended up marrying an Indian student and acquired the labor certifications necessary for the green card. Mira lives in Detroit, is nationally recognized for her involvement in the fields of pre-school education and parent-teacher relationships. After 36 years as a legal immigrant she clings passionately to her Indian citizenship and has hopes to return to India when she retires. Bharati married an American of Canadian parentage. She was able to bypass the labor-certification requirements and the race-related “quota” system.
The Mukherjee sisters have remained sisterly close by phone. They probably pitied one another. Mira, for the lack of structure in Bharati’s life, the erasure of Indianness, the absence of an unvarying daily core. Bharati, for the narrowness of Mira’s perspective, her uninvolvement with the mythic depths or the superficial pop culture of this...
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