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I don’t think I’ve ever felt so seen in a book. Until I read, An American Immigrant by Johanna Rojas Vann. This book came to my radar because of Jamie Ivey. She has a book club where you sign up for her Patreon account and receive access to the book of the month before it’s release date and there is a meeting with the author. When I saw that for August, the book was, “An American Immigrant,” of course I signed up!
Johanna’s mom immigrated to the United States from Colombia, through Mexico in the 80s. Johanna was born here, so she is a second-generation American-Colombian. This book is a fiction story based on actual events about her mom’s story growing up in Colombia and immigrating to the United States, with a mix of her own story of growing up in the United States with immigrant parents.
How I Related
Although, I’m not Colombian – I can relate to so much in this book! First, I’m a child of immigrants – my parents came in the 90s to live in the United States, from the Dominican Republic. And second, I’m a writer, just like Melanie, the main character of the book.
Melanie is a journalist who writes for Miami Herald and she’s on the brink of losing her job. She is assigned a story that took her to her mom’s home country, Colombia, a place Melanie has never visited. On this trip, she discovers so much about herself, her culture, and her mom.
There were many misconceptions about Colombia Melanie had, which she discovered were not true while on her trip. She was able to visit her grandma who she had not seen in about ten years, and she found her mom’s journal, in which she wrote about her experience crossing the border to get into the United States.
In one of the journal entries, Melanie’s mom wrote about how a classmate from a different Latin-American country wrote negatively about Colombia because of the drug issues they had in the past. If you aren’t sure who Pablo Escobar is – look him up. She was very upset that her country was seen in such a negative light and it affected all citizens of Colombia because people would think that everyone was associated with Pablo Escobar. And reading that reminded me of the first time I had ever heard anything about Colombia, I was told that it was the drug capital of the world. I was young and didn’t understand what that meant – but it made me reflect on what Melanie’s mom wrote was true, there was a negative taint on Colombia all because of one man.
The Identity Crisis with Immigrants
Although growing up Melanie did not embrace her Colombian culture and was more embarrassed – she described the struggle children of immigrants go through with identifying with either culture. It’s like we are too Hispanic for Americans and then too American for Hispanics.
And lastly, I identified with the writer in Melanie. Everything she described about having too many ideas to write and wanting to start writing right away or the whole process of writing an article and not being able to stop when you’re in a flow and afterward waiting for feedback, I could identify with everything because I go through that as well.
The ending is very beautiful because Melanie finally finds what she needs to write about and it’s similar to my podcast. Immigration stories are important and are a unique part of this country. They aren’t spoken about enough, which is why I started The American Dream in The Eyes of Immigrants podcast, to share these stories, change the narrative, and provide a safe space for immigrants.
Whether you are an immigrant, a child of immigrants, or not, I believe everyone should read this book!
Let me know if you do read it and let’s talk about it!
With Love, Heidy
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