A Sense of Belonging
Being an American means different things to different people; some immigrants come to this country to make it their home, while others come just for the opportunities America has to offer. In Two Ways to Belong to America, Bharati Mukherjee describes two different views of living and surviving in America. While in Mother Tongue, Amy Tan writes about her and her mothers’ struggle to overcome their own cultural differences. In this essay, I will be comparing and contrasting these two works, as well as relating them to Five Faces of Oppression by Iris Marion Young. In both Mukherjee and Tans’ essays, the overall theme is women originally from a different country, living in America and dealing with discrimination, stereotyping, and countless cultural differences. Bharati originally wrote Two Ways to Belong to America for the New York Times to speak out about the movement in Congress to eliminate government benefits from resident aliens. She came to America to get an education and had worked hard and paid her taxes just like every other American, she believed it was unfair of our government to take away something she had earned. Also in this essay, Bharati speaks about her friend Mira, whose employer went to the Immigration and Naturalization Service to petition for her labor certification. Mira had lived in America for over 30 years and had not yet applied for American citizenship, however she still felt betrayed when her legal status was questioned. In Mother Tongue, Tan felt stereotyped in many different ways. She wrote about how her mother had been taken advantage of by people that could not understand her broken English. People seemed to dismiss her as being uneducated and illiterate because of the language she used. However, once Amy Tan spoke to the same individuals using a different type of English, which these people were more accustomed to, they actually did something to assist Tans’ mother. Unlike Bharati Mukherjee and her friend Mira, Amy Tan was born an American citizen and never had to fear the possibility of being deported and never had to deal with being questioned about her acceptance of American culture. Fortunately, Bharati quickly married a man that was born in North Dakota and was able to bypass the labor-certification requirements. However, Mira was a long-term immigrant and during the Vice President Gore’s “Citizenship U.S.A” drive in April 1995 (News Migration), she felt outraged. She had been invited to stay and work in this country and had no intention of becoming an American citizen. Mira had always planned on returning to her birthplace because that is where she felt at home. She didn’t understand why her green card was not good enough, she wanted to travel and see new places, then come back to a job that was satisfying and that she was skilled at. While Bharati and Mira fought to become seen as equals in America, Amy fought to break out of a pre-existing stereotype. Amy felt like people had already decided her future for her and she was going to prove them wrong. She constantly had teachers steering her into the direction of math and science, even being told by a former employer that writing was her worst skill and that she should hone her talents towards account management. Instead of taking her employers advice, Tan became a nonfiction freelancer a week later. By 1985, she had finally begun writing fiction, which had been her dream all along. Five Faces of Oppression by Iris Marion Young is a relevant piece that defines types of oppression as Exploitation, Marginalization, Powerlessness, Cultural Imperialism, and Violence. This article is explains how people are oppressed by different factors in their environment, whether it be through racial prejudice, power through financial superiority, and even using force to keep others from raising their status. In both Two Ways to Belong to America and Mother Tongue, nearly all of these examples are illustrated. Exploitation is used by...
Cited: Mukherjee, Bharati. Two Ways to Belong to America. n.d. 28 February 2012 <http://wiki-cik.wikispaces.com/file/view/Mukherjee-2WaysToBelong.pdf>.
News Migration. Naturalization Controversy. Vol. 3. German Marshall Fund of the United States; University of California-Berkeley Center for German; European Studies. Los Angeles Times, October 1996.
Sahari, Michael. Five Faces of Oppression. 13 May 2008. 19 February 2012 <http://mjsahari.blogspot.com/2008/05/five-faces-of-oppression.html>.
Tan, Amy. Mother Tongue, by Amy Tan. Ed. Carol l. Robinson. n.d. Houding Productions. 29 February 2012 <http://cyberspacerobinson.net/courses/writing/writing1/2012reading/mothertounge.pdf>.
Young, Iris Marion. Five Faces of Oppression. Princeton: Princeton U P, 2011.
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