Thursday, April 17, 2014

The Immigrant Advantage

The Immigrant Advantage: What We Can Learn from Newcomers to America about Health, Happiness and Hope by Claudia Kolker caught my eye as I was browsing the book club section at the public library.

I teach in a school where there is a lot of diversity.  It is one of the things I most enjoy about my job.  But, I have often been able to find ways that immigrants are not at an advantage. Seeing this book made me curious.  What are things in which immigrants have an advantage?  

Kolker looks at several different immigrant groups and can pinpoint different customs or traditions that help their culture mentally, physically, and financially.

One of these things is arranged marriage (she uses the term assisted marriage).  While this is generally frowned upon here in the United States, there are some cultures, like those of South Asia, that still give suggestions to their children about possible dating (and marriage) options.  These cultures have a lower divorce rate and couples seem to value and love each other more as time goes on, not the other way around.

Another chapter focuses on multigenerational houses, something typical in Jamaican culture. This allows for grandparents to be involved in the raising of grandchildren, and for a stable home life for these children. It also allows the adult children to save money for a home of their own (a goal that is pursued in this culture) and to become more financially secure before striking out on their own.

Each chapter shares a practice or custom, and Kolker shares her own observations about these ideas. Some she tries on her own and is able to share her success and experiences.  Her writing is entertaining and she is able to use research along with anecdotes.

I have recommended this book to a few friends, and hope that soon I will have someone to discuss it with.

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