Guest Post: Being An Immigrant In The US

This is a guest post from Revital Shiri-Horowitz, author of the heartfelt contemporary novel Daughters of Iraq. I haven’t had time to read the novel myself, which I was quite sad about, though what I did read was excellent and I can thoroughly recommend you give it a read. I’m hoping to get time in the next few months. In the meantime, I have a guest post for you guys and also a giveaway for a copy of Daughters of Iraq!

As well as her website, you can find Revital on her blog, her Facebook page, and on Twitter.

Being an immigrant in the US

Sixteen years ago my husband and I packed our little, young, and new family (we had a two-year-old boy) and moved to the US. For us it was an adventure we were eager to explore. At that time in Israel the situation was pretty bad. Suicide bombers were bombing buses and I was just tired of all this. I really needed a break. Also, I must admit, we tried to improve our financial situation, too, so we thought that if we have the opportunity why not take it?! We flew to the other side of the world and settled down in Washington State.

I remember the cultural shock quite well. I was so impressed by how people were patient and nice to each other. Driving was so calm, the weather so grey, I just felt I was half asleep most of the time. I was used to having the sun and warm weather, people active, loud, lively, and it was so much different from what I’d experienced in Israel.

In my new home in Washington State, there were plenty of challenges, especially related to language and mentality. I remember how hard I had to work just to be able to say what I needed at the grocery store, not even to mention going to doctor appointments, speaking English at my son’s preschool — just going through daily routines. People were nice and welcoming, but sometimes, people would talk to me like I was ignorant, just because English is not my mother tongue.

I see this everywhere in the world. It is not just related to America. But I have the feeling that Americans see themselves as the center of the world. If someone can’t speak their language, they must be uneducated. When I came to the States I already had a Masters degree in Geography and I was a high school teacher. When i arrived in the States, I knew English but it wasn’t so strong because I did not have to use it on a regular basis in everyday matters. I was only used to reading articles in English, but speaking it on a daily basis is a totally different skill.

I am so happy I was an immigrant because I could use my life experience in writing my book, Daughters of Iraq, a novel based on my family’s exodus from Iraq to Israel in the early 1950s. Now that I had moved to a new country to live, I could understand much better what my family’s emigration would have been like when they immigrated to Israel fifty years earlier from Iraq. Thanks to my experience, I could “get under their skin,” and feel closer to what they went through cultural confusions and disorientation they must have gone through.

I am so glad I lived in the US for so many years. I also became an American citizen, but deep down, I always wished to go back to my homeland where I had my family, old friends and the Hebrew language I love so much. We moved back this summer, and settled in Tel Aviv. I am writing from my office at home. The window is open, and the sun is sending me warm rays, tickling my back. I love my life, and will always be thankful for the great experience I had in the US.

Be blessed, Revital

About the book

Daughters of Iraq is a fascinating story following three generation of women as they journey from Iraq in the first half of the twentieth century to modern-day Israel and Seattle. It is the story of a Jewish family that emigrated from Iraq to Israel to start a new life in the newly established country.

What people are saying about Daughters of Iraq:

Flawless narrative and wonderfully drawn characters, whom I came to know and love. - Georgina Young, Author of The Time Baroness, Amazon.com

Revital’s story touches the soul with human kindness, loss, tenderness, hope, the circle of love that weaves all hearts together, a delicate golden thread tying generations into one tapestry of life. – Jackie Madden Haugh, My life in a Tutu, Amazon.com

Truly, Revital, I have no words to praise you… Your novel [is] one of the best I’ve ever read… – Olga at BarnesandNoble.com

I felt that I was actually living within this inspiring story, and with each turn of the page, I became more and more a part of this sad, happy, and historical story. – Simon Palmer, Author of Loosing to Hate

In a twisting plot with intriguing characters Shiri-Horowitz grasps the attention of the reader in a novel that is both instructive and heartfelt. - Anthony Blumfield on Amazon.com

Daughters of Iraq is available from Amazon.co.uk, Amazon.com, Smashwords, and Barnes & Noble.

The Giveaway

Please comment below on a big cultural experience you or somebody you know went through, or something that really hit home with you to enter to win a copy of Daughters of Iraq, and remember to leave your email address as in one week, Revital will pick a winner of this book!

Available in any ebook format or as a paperback copy. Also available in English or in Hebrew. Let us know the format and language when we contact you if you have won. This is an international giveaway, we are willing to ship to anywhere in the world.

For the Giveaway Grand Prize: Everyone who comments is eligible to win a lovely Mama Nazima’s Jewish Iraqi Cuisine. Revital will choose a lucky winner at the end of November 2011 and can ship anywhere in the world. Good luck!

Comments

  1. Hi ladies

    Thanks for your comments, and thank you Jadea for hosting me on your blog. Life is very intersting for immigrants, it does give a totaly different perspective to life when you live out of your homeland. I am actualy writing more about it in my new novel which is being written these days and will be named “See you soon”. You can read more about it on my blog.

    Best, to all of you, Revital
    http://www.revital-sh.com

  2. When I went to Thailand last year, I had some difficulties communicating with the locals. I did not understand what they spoke and most of the time I just nodded my head and smiled. Sometimes, I used my fingers to express what I want to ask.

  3. My brother married i to a very traditional Italian family. Certainly a learning experience for him. He adapted very well. I am always made to feel welcome when I visit.

    I would love to read a paper copy of Mama Nazima’s Jewish Iraqi Cuisine in English thank you.

    marypres(AT)gmail(DOT)com

  4. I went to a Greek wedding several years ago, I was the only non-Greek there. It felt odd to be in a setting in my own home town where I didn’t know the language or even what the food I was eating was. (The food was really good!)
    After this experience, it has made me want to travel to experience new cultures instead of my own. It also made me appreciate what immigrants experience when they come to the US.

  5. Revital – I lived in another English speaking country for a few years and that alone was a challenge, so I can only imagine your difficulties
    here in the US. My husband is also an immigrant, and after 11 years, he is still very homesick.

    I’m looking forward to reading your lovely book.

    Warm Wishes,
    Fran

  6. I live in a very small rural area where no big cultural experiences ever happen; however, my nephew joined the Navy about 3 years ago. Talk about a big cultural shock for him; he is now a hillbilly in Japan! Seriously, though, he was a pretty homesick boy at first, but has now begun to appreciate the opportunities he has had the past couple of years to travel to places in this world where he would not be able to travel as a civilian. We have told him to enjoy it and make the most of his experiences. On another note, I read the preview for Daughters of Iraq and it sounds really great!
    egstanley@gmail.com

  7. Just heard Jean Kwok talk about her semi-memoir, Girl in Translation. She includes some dialogue of English punctuated with gibberish so readers would understand what it’s like to be an immigrant who can only decipher parts of sentences. She also commented that Americans are so used to the world revolving around them that they cannot really grasp what immigrants go through adapting to our language and culture, one reason she wrote her book. This was re-iterated at a talk I attended recently given by a couple of our local immigrant-refugee program heads. When Americans do go overseas, we find many people speak English and signs are in English (as well as other languages). We are spoiled! I would love a copy of Revital’s book. I’m very interested in cultural experiences. Hope her family is doing well in Israel.

  8. Oh! I so didn’t see the punchline coming: that you return to Isreal! So happy for you. Sometimes we just belong in a certain place, if only for the slant of the sun. I work with ESL students, and I know it is a long, hard and sad process for them to acclimate to the US. Thank you for your honesty.

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