Friday, February 22, 2019

Rebel Without a Green Card

Americanized: Rebel Without a Green Card
288 pages
© 2018 Ssara Saedi

Sara Saedi and her older sister Samira were both born in Iran, but following the revolution their parents fled to America by way of Italy.  Although Sara had virtually no memory of her home country, she was marked by it, growing up as an undocumented resident when her family visa lapsed and the green card applications were endlessly delayed. In Americanized, Saedi offers a memoir of her coming of age,  most of which is humorous takes on the indignities of youth: fighting with older relatives, stressing out over acne and puberty, worrying about boys, etc.  Occasionally, however, the memoir grows more serious when her parents' on-going attempt to move forward with permanent legal residency and citizenship is stalled again and again.   The memoir is obviously political in its intent, as Saedi  frequently frets over residential attitudes regarding illegal immigration,  so Rebel can be read as an attempt to put a human face on an abstract policy. Her family would certainly be poster children for more inclusive immigration policies (being good, passionate people who want nothing more than the freedom to live their lives and pursue their dreams, etc),  but the Saeds are only one family, and not necessarily representative. Immigration offices can be painfully difficult to navigate, however, and needlessly burdensome: as a public librarian, I've personally witnessed struggles by my city's Yemeni and Bangladeshi immigration population to make any any progress with naturalization,  with form after form being rejected because a jot was a little too tiddlish -- there being specific requirements for only using capital letters, for instance. I've no doubt it could be made far more humane.

As a book, Americanized has some interest -- but honestly, it's more of a teen-girl-in-the-90s memoir than a serious discussion about immigration.  Firoozeh Dumas'  Funny in Farsi offers a much fuller idea of the immigrant experience, partially because Firoozeh remembered more of her childhood in Iran. 

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