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Success shouldn´t be controversial

Succeeding in America: Lessons from Immigrants Who Achieved the American Dream
by Leticia Gallares-Japzon
Anvil Publishing

When a friend of mine migrated from Vietnam to Australia, a friend of his gave him all the orientation that he would ever get: If the Australian smiles, you say yes; if the Australian frowns, you say no.

Those in possession of Leticia Gallares-Japzon’s Succeeding in America: Lessons from Immigrants Who Achieved the American Dream are rather better prepared.

This sensible, slender book seeks to distill the experiences of many successful immigrants and pass their valuable lessons on to newcomers. This is a specialized book that may be used as a text for immigrants and for the government agencies and the non-profit organizations that work with them.

However, because the book indicates that well-being and advancement are, in fact, possible and that in America the deck is not stacked against them, I suspect that Succeeding could produce a tempest in a teapot.

Gallares-Japzon suggests that there is a right way (and by implication, a wrong way) to make a new home in America. In the prologue she writes of a Korean immigrant who, "instead of feeling sorry for himself, . . . worked harder and did not accept defeat."

She continues, "Once you have settled in and accepted that some problems will always be there and that many obstacles, such as stereotyping, are caused by ignorance more than intention, you will find that you can focus more on yourself and move forward."

This book is conservative in the sense that it doesn’t advocate big risks (other than the initial huge risk of migrating in the first place). Also, in that its how-to text maintains a sunny, can-do attitude without expecting the world to bail you out.

Succeeding is an eminently practical tome divided into three parts: Working and Living in the United States, Achieving Success, and Visiting the United States the First Time. The chapters in each of these sections address matters ranging from culture shock to paying taxes, from getting an education to going into business for yourself.

Gallares-Japzon migrated to the United States from the Philippines in 1971, but her book draws from the experiences of immigrants from around the world. Her voice, though professional and knowledgeable, is, by virtue of its sympathetic tone, that of a Big Auntie. It is kind but firm.

Succeeding notes that many of the immigrants interviewed weren’t in a position to take a leave of absence from work to obtain their education. She writes: "Although it takes perseverance, it also helps to remember sometimes that time spent socializing is time that could be spent in studying or applying oneself more diligently." This is the sort of life-is-hard-and-it’s-not-fair statement that you don’t want to hear from just anybody.

The author writes of her own experience: "I was also quite shy but I overcame this shyness early on, knowing that if I kept to myself I would be lonely and alone. And knowing that I was on my own, I realized that I either had to reach out or be left out."

Succeeding in America speaks reasonably and precisely about diversity ("qualities different from your own"), stereotyping ("oversimplified generalization about an entire group of people without regard for individual differences"), and discrimination ("behavior that can follow prejudicial thinking . . . the denial of justice").

The book is a splendid combination of cultural matters and technical explanations of finances and governmental regulation. It should be of proper use to many as a workbook, and should not cause any controversy among those who want what’s best for new Americans.

Source: Wenger, Jeff. The Asian Reporter, July 10-16, 2001. Success shouldn´t be controversial.


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