ENG 1A T/TH (3:30-4:50)
17 April 2018
The American Dream has many different definitions throughout literacy and is different for many Americans and non-Americans throughout the United States. The literary definition is, the ideal that every US citizen should have an equal opportunity to achieve success and prosperity through hard work, determination, and initiative. While this is the literary definition, it does not include non-US citizens which have to work just as hard if not harder than US born Americans because of the culture change and different opportunities. Many immigrants come to the United States to paint their own picture of the American Dream and be successful as they see it, however, there are struggles that come with them and working to be successful for them sometimes proves even harder. “The Book of Unknown Americans” is a story that shows examples of families struggling to create their own version of the American Dream and the different paths they take to accomplish their goals and be successful in their own eyes. There are also current examples of immigrants today that have their own struggles coming to America and also want their stories shared because everyone’s American Dream is different.
Within the novel “The Book of Unknown Americans” a scene early on in the story is about a family, called the Riveras, coming from Mexico and struggling to get adjusted to the new culture and also the language barrier. The Riveras arrive by truck not knowing where to go for food which they stop at a gas station, they struggle paying for the food because they didn’t know
how much money it costs. This immediately shows the change coming to America because the family didn’t know where to go for food which many American citizens don’t have that problem because of being already familiar with the surroundings. The housing conditions in which they live in are horrible as they only have one mattress, the bathroom is in bad condition as the toilet is rusted, and the shower doesn’t have a curtain or door. The mother, Alma, describes the feeling of having nothing in America “We had bundled up our old life and left it behind, and then hurtled into a new one with only a few of our things, each other, and hope”(Henriquez, 6). Many Americans have well established homes and live well already as they try to provide for their own families that don’t have to worry about conditions, this part of the book shows that immigrants have to start with almost nothing and have to be grateful that they even get the opportunity to live in America,while still working on their dream to be successful in America.
Everyone has their own story of why they come to the United States, which is why everyone’s American Dream is different in a way. While being successful in the workplace and owning a house is part of the American Dream, some immigrants come in hopes to get help and seek guidance through situations that only make sense for them to come to the United States. In the story, the Riveras, come to America because their daughter has brain problems that occured from an accident and struggles with learning. “Her body smacked against the mud, sending it splattering into the air, all over me, all over Luis. Her neck snapped back. Her eyes closed.”(Henriquez, 100), Alma describes the accident in which her daughter falls off a ladder. This forces the family to make the decision to come to America in hopes that the schools in America can help their daughter and hopefully make her better. Many immigrants are sometimes forced to try and come to America because they see no other option, an example would be families leaving their home countries because of war and they seek safety which they believe the United States can provide.
Another family within the story, the Toros, are another example of leaving their home because of war and looking for safety in the United States. The father, Rafael Toro, explains that their country was invaded and the fighting was too much to bare, so him and his wife made the decision to leave the country they love to go to America in hopes of safety, he was lucky enough to get a job and provide for his family. He states “I feel gratified when I see Enrique and Mayor doing well here. Maybe they wouldn’t have done so well in Panama. Maybe they wouldn’t have had the same opportunities. So that makes coming here worth it”(Henriquez, 23) This shows that some immigrants aren’t looking for the same type of success as others when they come to America, as long as they can provide for their family and give their children a chance to be even more successful, than they are living their own dream.
The article “The Transformation of the American Dream” focuses on what the current President of the United States sees the American Dream and compares it to what it’s definition was back in history. The article writes that President Trump has suggested that the American Dream is about owning a nice house and running a successful business, which wasn’t the case in past years depending on the situation at the time. In past years, the American Dream focused on freedom, mutual respect and equality of opportunity. This idea that owning a home and trying to be successful by running their own business had consequences in the past which affected many families believing the definition by the Presidents who encourage huge house spending. The article gives definitions of the American Dream from the past which changes over time, in the 1930s it focused on ideals values, in the 1950s it focused on freedom and equality after World War Two, and it keeps changing depending on current events around the world.
All of these examples of the American Dream show that it is different between every family and generation throughout the United States and will be constantly changing. “The Book of Unknown Americans” is a great book showcasing the ideas of the American Dream being different for everyone in the story because they all come to the United States for different reasons. The American Dream has changed over periods of time given how the world is shaped and what is the major concern at the time which impacts how Americans think they should live their lives. Both US citizens and immigrants have their own ideas of how success looks like in the United States and want equal opportunity to live out their own dream even if it doesn’t mean they will be wealthy. The American Dream is what makes the United States special because there is a mix of culture like no other country that everyone should embrace and have equal opportunity to get what they want in the United States.
HenriÌquez, Cristina. The Book of Unknown Americans. Vintage Books, a Division of Random House LLC, 2015.
Shiller, Robert J. “The Transformation of the ‘American Dream’.” The New York Times, The New York Times, 4 Aug. 2017, http://www.nytimes.com/2017/08/04/upshot/the-transformation-of-the-american-dream.html.