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Immigrants In Miral Al-Tahawy's Brooklyn Heights

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In Miral al-Tahawy’s novel, Brooklyn Heights, one of the main messages conveyed within the novel surrounds the disillusionment Arab immigrants experience within America, the failure of the American Dream, as they abandon their professions, and families in their home countries hoping for a better future. Al-Tahawy shows the cycles of hope and dashed dreams that immigrants go through, time and time again. Many examples were presented in the novel on immigrants who sacrificed everything they used to have in their home countries, hoping to live the American dream. For instance, Naguib al-Khalili was an Arabic teacher who used to teach at the Scientific Renaissance Secondary School in Baalbek, but after leaving for America he couldn’t achieve his…show more content…
Even though the novel’s protagonist, Hend, lived in a conservative, Egyptian Bedouin family and always had the urge to break free, she still felt out of place in America. While in Brooklyn, she is reminded everyday of her small village and the people who influenced her personality. The concept al-Tahawy tried to promote in her novel are of how the feelings of displacement and exile haunts all those who managed to live in different countries other than their homelands. Through the different stories of immigrants and refugees in the novel, we see their struggle trying to assimilate and overcome living within a western society away from their eastern backgrounds where they are expected to fit in with their new culture. In the novel, a Palestinian character, Naguib al -Khalili, thought of opening his own bakery in Brooklyn where he baked “the cakes that tasted of home” (137) that smelled and tasted “of sweet and distant places and times” (138). As a Palestinian refugee, he longed to return to his homeland, where he saved every penny he earned from his bakery in hopes to “go back [home] and get married in his village once he had rebuilt his father’s house” (139). However, the dream of returning faded away as the years passed, and like many displaced Palestinians, the only thing that remained of his identity is “proclaimed in a sheaf of old…show more content…
I feel like I can directly relate to the novel, especially the feeling of displacement we get living in a foreign country. Thinking about my old life before migrating to Canada, I can now see how we used to live without stress or having to struggle to fit or blend in. Living in a community that had the same believes, shared the same culture, and spoke the same language have never been seen as necessarily a privilege to me before coming here. Like the characters in the book who left their professions hoping for a better life in the first world countries, my dad too left his profession as a doctor and came to what he always viewed as the land where dreams come true and where one can perceive a successful life. However, he came to be categorized as an inexperienced/unqualified doctor for not having the standard ‘Canadian’ experience needed for him to be called a physician here. Besides having to sacrifice many things to get to live in a place like Canada, like leaving your family and your whole Career behind, there were many other things that is still expected from you. Al-Tahawy’s novel proves to me that to live in a foreign country, a lot is expected from you to learn and do in order to survive and thrive in it. We are expected to pick up the language, to learn the acceptable mannerisms and behavior, and try to fit in
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