After the Legalities Essay

Submitted By jsergeant54
Words: 1604
Pages: 7

Jenna Sergeant
Professor Gray
WR 2 6:30 a.m.
1 April 2014
After the Legalities Long gone are the days when the term “American” had a clear cut definition. Today, fifty different people could be asked to define the term, and fifty different answers would be given. There is no one, correct, written in stone definition, but rather one true element with an abundance of different added aspects: “To be an American you must live in America and….” Along with trying to fit in with the current definition that society has clung on to, immigrants struggle with starting over in a new country where they must re-identify themselves in an unfamiliar setting. Lan Cao, author of the essay, “The Gift of Language,” tells the story of fleeing her home country and finding her identity as an American. Similar to Cao’s essay about fitting in, “The F Word,” an excerpt by Firoozeh Dumas, discusses the characteristics and flaws of Americans through the eyes of an Iranian immigrant. The interpretation of the term American will never be something that everyone agrees on. Many immigrants that are new to the country develop an idea of what an American is by solely basing their thoughts on the interactions they have had with other citizens. Firoozeh Dumas moved to Southern California from Iran when she was in elementary school, and the first impression of the American children she met was not a good one. She opens her excerpt by telling the audience a few of her relatives’ names and their meanings, and then gives the offensive nicknames made up by the school children. Farbod which means “Greatness” turned into “farthead,” and “the name of [her] friend Neggar means “Beloved” although it can be more accurately translated as "She Whose Name Almost Incites Riots“” (Dumas). Dumas and her family knew that they would face many obstacles while living in America, but never did they think that names would be one of them. She mentions that she never expected to end up in a country where single syllable names ruled. “William is shortened to “Bill,” where Susan becomes “Sue,” and Richard, somehow evolves into “Dick”” (Dumas). Dumas compared the fact that the English language lacked guttural sounds like “gh” and “kh” to lacking a few exotic spices in their kitchen pantry. This critical analogy that is referred to multiple times throughout the essay reveals the way that Dumas viewed Americans- bland and afraid to try new things. The people that Dumas encountered in her first few years in America apparently did not even try to pronounce her name correctly, as is obvious in Dumas’ American translation of her first name: "I'm Not Going to Talk to You Because I Cannot Possibly Learn Your Name and I Just Don’t Want to Have to Ask You Again and Again Because You’ll Think I'm Dumb or You Might Get Upset or Something." Her family moved from Whittier to Newport Beach, California, and Dumas saw the move as a fresh start. In order to avoid questions such as “Why don’t you speak with an accent?” and, “When did you move to America?” Dumas chose to change her name to Julie. She was significantly more accepted and befriended in her new school with her American name, and “because [she] spoke English without an accent and was known as Julie, people assumed [she] was American” (Dumas). This new privilege was like looking through X-ray glasses into the lives of those that wouldn’t have given her a second thought had they have known Julie as Firoozeh. During her sixth grade year, around the time of the Iranian Revolution, Julie was privy to her classmates’ true feelings towards “those ‘damn I-raynians.’” The experiences and types of people that Dumas encountered during her time in America has shaped her thoughts on what qualities Americans possess. It is clear that those who migrate to America sometimes have a different point-of-view on Americans and what makes them so. But technically speaking, what is it that makes a person American aside from being born in the country or