Sunday, November 8, 2009

Becoming Americans

On NPR's Books We Love, Maud Newton reviews "Becoming Americans"— an anthology curated by Ilan Stavans and featuring "four centuries of immigrants' stories, laying the works of comparative newcomers like Eva Hoffman, Felipe Alfau and Gary Shteyngart alongside the writing of early settlers, from religious dissidents fleeing persecution to slaves like Phillis Wheatley and Ayuba Suleiman Diallo, who were kidnapped and delivered to the New World unwillingly."

The book sounds simply fantastic. I especially relate to the following quote by Polish-American writer Eva Hoffman:

English is the language in which I've become an adult. In Polish, whole provinces of adult experience are missing. I don't know [the] words for 'microchips,' or 'pathetic fallacy,' or The Importance of Being Earnest.


  1. me too. i can very much relate to this quote.
    and by the way i am impressed with your writing in Bulgarian on your other blog! I cannot do that, I can't even put two sentences together like that.
    Also, this is my phenomenon, I absolutely SUCKED at writing papers in high school in Sofia, and first year in college too, never really god good grades on papers. Here in the US, I have A-ced every single 10 or 20-pager (once I learned English), I got quoted in front of the class, was always one of the best writers in my theory classes at the university... This is very weird to me. Any insight on that? I am sad i can't write in Bulgarian, when i admit that people assume i came to the states as a young kid, so i don't even tell them I was actually 20!

  2. Thanks for your note, Vely. Writing in Bulgarian about "serious" stuff is a huge struggle for me, which is partly why I want to do it. My spelling is horrendous and I don't like the way it sound in Bulgarian (so stiff)... but in the case of my other blog, I figured it's better say it badly than not say it at all.

    I had the exact same experience as you with my papers in Bulgaria and the States. I always did OK in high-school but my work was never praised and I definitely did not feel proud of it the way I did in college. But that, I like to tell myself, was not necessarily a reflection of my abilities. I think it has to do with the fact that very few Bulgarian high-school teachers encourage creativity in their students. I think that my work sucked because the assignments sucked and I was never excited about any of them. Especially in lit classes. I LOVED reading the books, I just HATED what we were asked to "do" with them. My American college experience was the exact opposite of that. Even the suckiest assignment was an opportunity to get creative.