Writers from diverse ethnic backgrounds ring in on American identity.
Actor and activist Ferrera makes her book debut as editor of this collection of spunky, fresh, and often moving personal essays responding to the question: What do I call an American like me? Because she grew up believing she was “alone in feeling stuck between cultures,” Ferrera sees the book as a way to foster a sense of belonging as well as to celebrate difference. “We live as citizens of a country that does not always claim us or even see us,” she writes, “and yet, we continue to build, to create, and to compel it toward its own promise.” That promise beckoned many writers’ parents or grandparents to make an arduous journey to a new homeland. “For my family,” writes Olympic figure skater Michelle Kwan, “the American dream wasn’t just a fairy-tale notion or a meaningless phrase. It has always been real and extremely motivating.” Hoping for a bright future for themselves and their children, Kwan’s parents left China, arriving in the U.S. penniless and knowing no English but certain that “if you work hard and take big risks for what you believe in, you can accomplish anything.” They sacrificed time and money to support Kwan’s passion for ice skating. Other writers include comedians Al Madrigal and Kumail Nanjiani, cookbook author and TV host Padma Lakshmi, transgender advocate Geena Rocero, NBA player Jeremy Lin, actor and documentary filmmaker Ravi Patel, gymnast Laurie Hernandez, and composer and playwright Lin-Manuel Miranda. Some, bullied and mocked as children, wanted to blend into white America, begging for white-bread sandwiches rather than curry in their lunchboxes. Others flaunted their difference. Growing up in Houston, actress Liza Koshy liked “being racially ambiguous. Forever the ethnically mysterious little brown girl.” She saw her Asian and Latino friends not as a melting pot but a salad bowl, “tossed haphazardly together” to produce “something delicious,” each contributing a “special flavor or texture.”
Heartfelt essays from vibrant American voices.