Essay 3 is an argumentative essay of at least 1200 words, notincluding works cited page. Your essay should focus on A Multicultural Existence and analyze an aspect of that issue Remember, in anargumentative essay you take a stance and argue your position usingevidence (textual analysis, examples, etc.). You will take a stance andprovide evidence using at least two of the essays from the readings wehave covered in this course, as well as at least two appropriate,academic outside sources. This essay must be at least 1200 words andfollow the formatting guidelines for essays in this course. Please boldyour thesis statement.
- “Two Ways to Belong in America,” by Bharati Mukherjee
- “Mother Tongue,” by Amy Tan
Two Ways to Belong in America
Born in 1940 and raised in Calcutta, India, Bharati Mukherjee immigrated to the United States in 1961 and earned an M.F.A. and a Ph.D. in literature. Mukherjee is the author of several novels, including Tiger’s Daughter (1972), Jasmine (1989), Desirable Daughters (2002), and The Tree Bride (2004). She has also written short story collections, such as The Middleman and Other Stories (1988). She is a professor emerita at the University of California, Berkeley.
“Two Ways to Belong in America” first appeared in the New York Times. It was written to address a movement in Congress to take away government benefits from resident aliens. Like her fiction, though, it is about the issues that confront immigrants in America.
This is a tale of two sisters from Calcutta, Mira and Bharati, who have lived in the United States for some 35 years, but who find themselves on different sides in the current debate over the status of immigrants. I am an American citizen and she is not. I am moved that thousands of long-term residents are finally taking the oath of citizenship. She is not.
Mira arrived in Detroit in 1960 to study child psychology and pre-school education. I followed her a year later to study creative writing at the University of Iowa. When we left India, we were almost identical in appearance and attitude. We dressed alike, in saris; we expressed identical views on politics, social issues, love, and marriage in the same Calcutta convent-school accent. We would endure our two years in America, secure our degrees, then return to India to marry the grooms of our father’s choosing.
Instead, Mira married an Indian student in 1962 who was getting his business administration degree at Wayne State University. They soon acquired the labor certifications necessary for the green card of hassle-free residence and employment.
Mira still lives in Detroit, works in the Southfield, Mich., school system, and has become nationally recognized for her contributions in the fields of pre-school education and parent-teacher relationships. After 36 years as a legal immigrant in this country, she clings passionately to her Indian citizenship and hopes to go home to India when she retires.
5In Iowa City in 1963, I married a fellow student, an American of Canadian parentage. Because of the accident of his North Dakota birth, I bypassed labor-certification requirements and the race-related “quota” system that favored the applicant’s country of origin over his or her merit. I was prepared for (and even welcomed) the emotional strain that came with marrying outside my ethnic community. In 33 years of marriage, we have lived in every part of North America. By choosing a husband who was not my father’s selection, I was opting for fluidity, self-invention, blue jeans, and T-shirts, and renouncing 3,000 years (at least) of caste-observant, “pure culture” marriage in the Mukherjee family. My books have often been read as unapologetic (and in some quarters overenthusiastic) texts for cultural and psychological “mongrelization.” It’s a word I celebrate.
Mira and I have stayed sisterly close by phone. In our regular Sunday morning conversations, we are unguardedly affectionate. I am her only blood relative on this continent. We expect to see each other through the looming crises of aging and ill health without being asked. Long before Vice President Gore’s “Citizenship U.S.A.” drive, we’d had our polite arguments over the ethics of retaining an overseas citizenship while expecting the permanent protection and economic benefits that come with living and working in America.
Like well-raised sisters, we never said what was really on our minds, but we probably pitied one another. She, for the lack of structure in my life, the erasure of Indianness, the absence of an unvarying daily core. I, for the narrowness of her perspective, her uninvolvement with the mythic depths or the superficial pop culture of this society. But, now, with the scapegoatings of “aliens” (documented or illegal) on the increase, and the targeting of long-term legal immigrants like Mira for new scrutiny and new self-consciousness, she and I find ourselves unable to maintain the same polite discretion. We were always unacknowledged adversaries, and we are now, more than ever, sisters.
“I feel used,” Mira raged on the phone the other night. “I feel manipulated and discarded. This is such an unfair way to treat a person who was invited to stay and work here because of her talent. My employer went to the I.N.S. and petitioned for the labor certification. For over 30 years, I’ve invested my creativity and professional skills into the improvement of this country’s pre-school system. I’ve obeyed all the rules, I’ve paid my taxes, I love my work, I love my students, I love the friends I’ve made. How dare America now change its rules in midstream? If America wants to make new rules curtailing benefits of legal immigrants, they should apply only to immigrants who arrive after those rules are already in place.”
To my ears, it sounded like the description of a long-enduring, comfortable yet loveless marriage, without risk or recklessness. Have we the right to demand, and to expect, that we be loved? (That, to me, is the subtext of the arguments by immigration advocates.) My sister is an expatriate, professionally generous and creative, socially courteous and gracious, and that’s as far as her Americanization can go. She is here to maintain an identity, not to transform it.
10I asked her if she would follow the example of others who have decided to become citizens because of the anti-immigration bills in Congress. And here, she surprised me. “If America wants to play the manipulative game, I’ll play it, too,” she snapped. “I’ll become a U.S. citizen for now, then change back to India when I’m ready to go home. I feel some kind of irrational attachment to India that I don’t to America. Until all this hysteria against legal immigrants, I was totally happy. Having my green card meant I could visit any place in the world I wanted to and then come back to a job that’s satisfying and that I do very well.”
In one family, from two sisters alike as peas in a pod, there could not be a wider divergence of immigrant experience. America spoke to me — I married it — I embraced the demotion from expatriate aristocrat to immigrant nobody, surrendering those thousands of years of “pure culture,” the saris, the delightfully accented English. She retained them all. Which of us is the freak?
Mira’s voice, I realize, is the voice not just of the immigrant South Asian community but of an immigrant community of the millions who have stayed rooted in one job, one city, one house, one ancestral culture, one cuisine, for the entirety of their productive years.
AMYTANMother TongueAmy Tan, born in 1952, was raised in northern California. Formerly abusiness writer, Tan is now a novelist. She is best known for her firstbook, The Joy Luck Club (1989), but has also written The Kitchen God’sWife (1991), The Bonesetter’s Daughter (2001), Saving Fish from Drowning(2005), and The Valley of Amazement (2013). Her fiction is rooted inher experiences as the child of Chinese immigrants growing up and livingin American culture.In “Mother Tongue,” Tan describes the variety of Englishes she uses. Indoing so, she addresses the connections between languages and cultures,but in her writing she also demonstrates what she says about herself inthe essay: “I am a writer. And by that definition, I am someone who hasalways loved language” (par. 2). As you read, note the ways in whichthis love for language manifests itself.I am not a scholar of English or literature. I cannot give you much morethan personal opinions on the English language and its variations inthis country or others.I am a writer. And by that definition, I am someone who has always lovedlanguage.
I am fascinated by language in daily life. I spend a greatdeal of my time thinking about the power of language — the way it canevoke an emotion, a visual image, a complex idea, or a simple truth.Language is the tool of my trade. And I use them all — all the EnglishesI grew up with.Recently, I was made keenly aware of the different Englishes I do use. Iwas giving a talk to a large group of people, the same talk I hadalready given to half a dozen other groups. The nature of the talk wasabout my writing, my life, and my book, The Joy Luck Club. The talk wasgoing along well enough, until I remembered one major difference thatmade the whole talk sound wrong. My mother was in the room. And it wasperhaps the first time she had heard me give a lengthy speech, using thekind of English I have never used with her. I was saying things like“The intersection of memory upon imagination” and “There is an aspect ofmy fiction that relates to thus-and-thus” — a speech filled withcarefully wrought grammatical phrases, burdened, it suddenly seemed tome, with nominalized forms, past perfect tenses, conditional phrases,all the forms of standard English that I had learned in school andthrough books, the forms of English I did not use at home with mymother.Just last week, I was walking down the street with my mother, and Iagain found myself conscious of the English I was using, the English Ido use with her. We were talking about the price of new and usedfurniture and I heard myself saying this: “Not waste money that way.” Myhusband was with us as well, and he didn’t notice any switch in myEnglish. And then I realized why. It’s because over the twenty yearswe’ve been together I’ve often used that same kind of English with him,and sometimes he even uses it with me. It has become our language ofintimacy, a different sort of English that relates to family talk, thelanguage I grew up with.5
So you’ll have some idea of what this family talk I heard sounds like,I’ll quote what my mother said during a recent conversation which Ivideotaped and then transcribed. During this conversation, my mother wastalking about a political gangster in Shanghai who had the same lastname as her family’s, Du, and how the gangster in his early years wantedto be adopted by her family, which was rich by comparison. Later, thegangster became more powerful, far richer than my mother’s family, andone day showed up at my mother’s wedding to pay his respects. Here’swhat she said in part:“Du Yusong having business like fruit stand. Like off the street kind.He is Du like Du Zong — but not Tsung-ming Island people. The localpeople call putong, the river east side, he belong to that side localpeople. That man want to ask Du Zong father take him in like become ownfamily. Du Zong father wasn’t look down on him, but didn’t takeseriously, until that man big like become a mafia. Now important person,very hard to inviting him. Chinese way, came only to show respect,don’t stay for dinner. Respect for making big celebration, he shows up.Mean gives lots of respect. Chinese custom. Chinese social life thatway. If too important won’t have to stay too long. He come to mywedding. I didn’t see, I heard it. I gone to boy’s side, they have YMCAdinner. Chinese age I was nineteen.”You should know that my mother’s expressive command of English belieshow much she actually understands. She reads the Forbes report, listensto Wall Street Week, converses daily with her stockbroker, reads all ofShirley MacLaine’s books with ease — all kinds of things I can’t beginto understand. Yet some of my friends tell me they understand 50 percentof what my mother says. Some say they understand 80 to 90 percent. Somesay they understand none of it, as if she were speaking pure Chinese.But to me, my mother’s English is perfectly clear, perfectly natural.It’s my mother tongue. Her language, as I hear it, is vivid, direct,full of observation and imagery.
That was the language that helped shapethe way I saw things, expressed things, made sense of the world.Lately, I’ve been giving more thought to the kind of English my motherspeaks. Like others, I have described it to people as “broken” or“fractured” English. But I wince when I say that. It has always botheredme that I can think of no other way to describe it other than “broken,”as if it were damaged and needed to be fixed, as if it lacked a certainwholeness and soundness. I’ve heard other terms used, “limitedEnglish,” for example. But they seem just as bad, as if everything islimited, including people’s perceptions of the limited English speaker.I know this for a fact, because when I was growing up, my mother’s“limited” English limited my perception of her. I was ashamed of herEnglish. I believed that her English reflected the quality of what shehad to say. That is, because she expressed them imperfectly her thoughtswere imperfect. And I had plenty of empirical evidence to support me:the fact that people in department stores, at banks, and at restaurantsdid not take her seriously, did not give her good service, pretended notto understand her, or even acted as if they did not hear her.10My mother has long realized the limitations of her English as well.When I was fifteen, she used to have me call people on the phone topretend I was she. In this guise, I was forced to ask for information oreven to complain and yell at people who had been rude to her. One timeit was a call to her stockbroker in New York. She had cashed out hersmall portfolio and it just so happened we were going to go to New Yorkthe next week, our very first trip outside California.
I had to get onthe phone and say in an adolescent voice that was not very convincing,“This is Mrs. Tan.”And my mother was standing in the back whispering loudly, “Why he don’tsend me check, already two weeks late. So mad he lie to me, losing memoney.”And then I said in perfect English, “Yes, I’m getting rather concerned.You had agreed to send the check two weeks ago, but it hasn’t arrived.”Then she began to talk more loudly. “What he want, I come to New Yorktell him front of his boss, you cheating me?” And I was trying to calmher down, make her be quiet, while telling the stockbroker, “I can’ttolerate any more excuses. If I don’t receive the check immediately, Iam going to have to speak to your manager when I’m in New York nextweek.” And sure enough, the following week there we were in front ofthis astonished stockbroker, and I was sitting there red-faced andquiet, and my mother, the real Mrs. Tan, was shouting at his boss in herimpeccable broken English.We used a similar routine just five days ago, for a situation that wasfar less humorous. My mother had gone to the hospital for anappointment, to find out about a benign brain tumor a CAT scan hadrevealed a month ago. She said she had spoken very good English, herbest English, no mistakes. Still, she said, the hospital did notapologize when they said they had lost the CAT scan and she had come fornothing. She said they did not seem to have any sympathy when she toldthem she was anxious to know the exact diagnosis, since her husband andson had both died of brain tumors. She said they would not give her anymore information until the next time and she would have to make anotherappointment for that. So she said she would not leave until the doctorcalled her daughter. She wouldn’t budge.
And when the doctor finallycalled her daughter, me, who spoke in perfect English — lo and behold —we had assurances the CAT scan would be found, promises that aconference call on Monday would be held, and apologies for any sufferingmy mother had gone through for a most regrettable mistake.15I think my mother’s English almost had an effect on limiting mypossibilities in life as well. Sociologists and linguists probably willtell you that a person’s developing language skills are more influencedby peers. But I do think that the language spoken in the family,especially in immigrant families which are more insular, plays a largerole in shaping the language of the child. And I believe that itaffected my results on achievement tests, IQ tests, and the SAT. Whilemy English skills were never judged as poor, compared to math, Englishcould not be considered my strong suit. In grade school I did moderatelywell, getting perhaps B’s, sometimes B-pluses, in English and scoringperhaps in the sixtieth or seventieth percentile on achievement tests.But those scores were not good enough to override the opinion that mytrue abilities lay in math and science, because in those areas Iachieved A’s and scored in the ninetieth percentile or higher.This was understandable. Math is precise; there is only one correctanswer.
Whereas, for me at least, the answers on English tests werealways a judgment call, a matter of opinion and personal experience.Those tests were constructed around items like fill-in-the-blanksentence completion, such as “Even though Tom was ____, Mary thought hewas ____.” And the correct answer always seemed to be the most blandcombinations of thoughts, for example, “Even though Tom was shy, Marythought he was charming,” with the grammatical structure “even though”limiting the correct answer to some sort of semantic opposites, so youwouldn’t get answers like, “Even though Tom was foolish, Mary thought hewas ridiculous.” Well, according to my mother, there were very fewlimitations as to what Tom could have been and what Mary might havethought of him. So I never did well on tests like that.The same was true with word analogies, pairs of words in which you weresupposed to find some sort of logical, semantic relationship — forexample, “Sunset is to nightfall as ____ is to ____.” And here you wouldbe presented with a list of four possible pairs, one of which showedthe same kind of relationship: red is to stoplight, bus is to arrival,chills is to fever, yawn is to boring. Well, I could never think thatway. I knew what the tests were asking, but I could not block out of mymind the images already created by the first pair, “sunset is tonightfall” — and I would see a burst of colors against a darkening sky,the moon rising, the lowering of a curtain of stars. And all the otherpairs of words — red, bus, stoplight, boring — just threw up a mass ofconfusing images, making it impossible for me to sort out something aslogical as saying: “A sunset precedes nightfall” is the same as “a chillprecedes a fever.”
The only way I would have gotten that answer rightwould have been to imagine an associative situation, for example, mybeing disobedient and staying out past sunset, catching a chill atnight, which turns into feverish pneumonia as punishment, which indeeddid happen to me.I have been thinking about all this lately, about my mother’s English,about achievement tests. Because lately I’ve been asked, as a writer,why there are not more Asian Americans represented in Americanliterature. Why are there few Asian Americans enrolled in creativewriting programs? Why do so many Chinese students go into engineering?Well, these are broad sociological questions I can’t begin to answer.But I have noticed in surveys — in fact, just last week — that Asianstudents, as a whole, always do significantly better on math achievementtests than in English. And this makes me think that there are otherAsian-American students whose English spoken in the home might also bedescribed as “broken” or “limited.” And perhaps they also have teacherswho are steering them away from writing and into math and science, whichis what happened to me.
Fortunately, I happen to be rebellious in nature and enjoy the challengeof disproving assumptions made about me. I became an English major myfirst year in college, after being enrolled as pre-med. I startedwriting nonfiction as a freelancer the week after I was told by myformer boss that writing was my worst skill and I should hone my talentstoward account management.20But it wasn’t until 1985 that I finally began to write fiction. And atfirst I wrote using what I thought to be wittily crafted sentences,sentences that would finally prove I had mastery over the Englishlanguage. Here’s an example from the first draft of a story that latermade its way into The Joy Luck Club, but without this line: “That was mymental quandary in its nascent state.” A terrible line, which I canbarely pronounce.Fortunately, for reasons I won’t get into today, I later decided Ishould envision a reader for the stories I would write. And the reader Idecided upon was my mother, because these were stories about mothers.So with this reader in mind — and in fact she did read my early drafts —I began to write stories using all the Englishes I grew up with: theEnglish I spoke to my mother, which for lack of a better term might bedescribed as “simple”; the English she used with me, which for lack of abetter term might be described as “broken”; my translation of herChinese, which could certainly be described as “watered down”; and what Iimagined to be her translation of her Chinese if she could speak inperfect English, her internal language, and for that I sought topreserve the essence, but neither an English nor a Chinese structure. Iwanted to capture what language ability tests can never reveal: herintent, her passion, her imagery, the rhythms of her speech, and thenature of her thoughts.Apart from what any critic had to say about my writing, I knew I hadsucceeded where it counted when my mother finished reading my book andgave me her verdict: “So easy to read.”
Here is the works cited for these 2 essays above:
YOU ALSO NEED TO INCLUDE at least two appropriate, academic outside sources!
“The Ways We Lie” 50 Essays A Portable Anthology, edited by Samuel Cohen, 2017