The daughters of immigrants often straddle two worlds: The one where their parents were born and raised, and the United States, where they built another life. Both places end up shaping who they are.
For our series, “Between Two Cultures,” we spoke to five women who experienced feeling “different” as children growing up in the United States. While some of their stories are similar, their individual experiences speak volumes about what it’s like to exist between two cultures.
Now, Noor Wazwaz is proud to say she’s Palestinian and Muslim. But when she was a kid, she was “a little embarrassed” because of the way the two groups of people were perceived. Wazwaz was a kid when 9/11 happened. “We weren’t given the chance to mourn and feel sad for our country,” she recalls.
Both of Kim Ha’s parents are from Vietnam, and they came to the United States as refugees in the early ’80s.
“I think it would be so different to grow up with parents who weren’t immigrants,” Ha says. “That would completely change how I am, who I am, how I feel emotions.”
As a child, Linda Mobula straddled two countries, the United States and the Democratic Republic of the Congo. She was considered “different” in both.
“When I went back to the Congo when I was 9 years old, it was quite a cultural shock,” Mobula says. “There was stigma associated with the fact that I came from America. I think people assumed that my family had more money, or that we had more means.”
Lavanya Ramanathan’s parents are from South India, and they came to the United States in 1972. She’s starting to think more about who she dates and whether or not they’ll fit into her family. “I think it’s a lot to ask them to understand Indian culture, which is definitely at least 50 percent of who I am,” she says.
In Miami, Jeanine Navarrete was surrounded by the children of immigrants. “Having an immigrant story was very normal,” says Navarrete, whose parents came to the United States from Cuba in the early ’60s. When she got to college, Navarrete found that most people didn’t have the same background. There was a “disconnect between the very Hispanic culture in Miami” and “mainstream American culture,” Navarrete explains.