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Celebrating the “US” in the USA

By Lucy Fisher

Since its founding, the United States has been a country of immigrants. When we celebrate Independence Day on July 4, we celebrate our independence from Great Britain with patriotic displays. We also celebrate what it means to be American in the United States. The immigrant experience has contributed to the diverse fabric of the United States. Explore it with books available at Roesch Library and films available through the Libraries' subscription to the streaming video database Kanopy. 

Acts of Faith: The Story of an American Muslim, the Struggle for the Soul of a Generation tells the story of growing up Muslim in the United States and coming to believe in religious pluralism.  Eboo Patel became interested in religious diversity in college, where he noticed that conversations on multiculturalism and multiple identities did not involve religious identity. The founder of the Interfaith Youth Core, Patel developed the idea for an organization that would bring young people of different faiths together around service and dialogue.

In The Elevator Operator, shy and unassuming Eugene discusses his work, his emigration from Chernobyl, Ukraine, the joys of fatherhood and his recent U.S. citizenship as he shuttles passengers up and down in a manual elevator. In a moment of sadness, he wonders whether leaving his job as a journalist in Kiev was really worth it. Then he reassures himself, revealing his dream that someday his self-published novel will become a Hollywood blockbuster. This poetic snapshot takes students of immigration, labor, sociology, political science, economics, social work and anthropology deep into the heart of the immigrant experience.

In the new-age, high-technology economy, Indian immigrants, who hold disproportionate numbers of degrees in science and technology fields, stand to be among the primary driving forces in U.S. progress in the 21st century. The film Essential Arrival: Michigan's Indian Immigrants in the 21st Century explores this diverse group, which follows a grand tradition that should be familiar to all Americans, evoking cultural pluralism, the immigrant experience and the American Dream. A comprehensive, multi-angled inquiry, it features interviews from experts in law, sociology and public policy, in addition to many families of Indian immigrants in Michigan.

Dollars and Dreams: West Africans in New York is a documentary film focused on the pursuits and challenges of West African immigrants as they confront the idea of the American dream and the reality of the New York experience. With additional perspectives from scholars, authors and community leaders, the film creates a vibrant portrait of African achievement throughout the city while exploring complicated issues African immigrants face as they balance their deep connections to Africa and their enthusiastic commitments to the United States.

Made in L.A. is an Emmy-winning feature documentary that follows three Latina immigrants working in Los Angeles garment factories as they embark on a three-year odyssey to win basic labor protections from trendy clothing retailer Forever 21. Compelling, humorous and deeply human, Made in L.A. is a story about immigration, the power of unity and the courage it takes to find one’s voice.

Fresh off the Boat: A Memoir tells the story of Eddie Huang, a bright and controversial young star in the food world. Raised in suburban Orlando, Florida, in a family “fresh off the boat” from Taiwan, Huang burned his way through culture in the United States, obsessing over football, fighting the boys who called him a chink, partying like a gremlin, selling drugs and idolizing Tupac while his father launched successful seafood and steak restaurants. After misadventures as a lawyer, street fashion renegade and stand-up comic, Huang threw everything he loved into his own restaurant, bringing together a legacy stretching back to China and the shards of global culture he had melded into his own identity.

- Lucy Fisher, Course Reserves Specialist

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