[Saturday Reads] The Shame Of Being A Poor Immigrant Outsider


Myra here.

Every Saturday we hope to share with you our thoughts on reading and books. We thought that it would be good practice to reflect on our reading lives and our thoughts about reading in general. While on occasion, we would feature a few books in keeping with this, there would be a few posts where we will just write about our thoughts on read-alouds, libraries, reading journals, upcoming literary conferences, books that we are excited about, and just book love miscellany in general.


Watercress (Amazon | Book Depository)

Written by Andrea Wang Pictures by Jason Chin Publisher: Neal Porter Books (2021) ISBN: 9780823446247 (ISBN10: 0823446247). Borrowed from Overdrive. Book photos taken by me.

The story starts out simply enough with a young Asian girl in an old rusty car with her parents and older brother in the vast expanse of Ohio. The reader may be conjuring up images of being cooped up in a car with an ordinary family going on a road trip. As the parents spied watercress in the distance, the reader realizes that the story is far from ordinary.


The young girl’s parents park on the side of the road, bring out paper bags and a pair of scissors, while the children seem resigned to the inevitability of pulling out watercress from a ditch with their excited but largely oblivious parents steeped in memories of a faraway home.


This story perfectly captures the shame that most young immigrants feel about being different from everybody else (i.e. White settlers who inhabit the land). For young people with a desire to belong, their immigrant parents’ seemingly provincial ways appear uncouth and hopelessly backward.


I was especially struck by how the young girl articulated shame so powerfully, and how the resolution of the story did not feel forced, but believable, with all the growing and bitter pains that accompany swallowing “dinner from a ditch.”

The Author’s and Illustrator’s Afterword also moved me deeply – as they navigate feelings of guilt, layers of shame, and coming to terms with one’s heritage and identity. I predict that this picturebook will win all the awards next year. I am certain of this.

#SurvivalStories2021 Update: 58 out of target 100

June 5, 2021 at 06:30AM Myra Garces-Bacsal