“The Immigrant Advantage: What We Can Learn from Newcomers to America about Health, Happiness, and Hope,” written by the famous journalist Claudia Kolker after inspired from her immigrant friends in the United States is one of the unique literary works. The book gives a description of various traditions and customs followed by the immigrants and their families dwelling in the United States. Most of the customs followed by the immigrants are unknown to several Americans; however, Kolker feels that the traditions of the immigrants make the Americans understand the reason for happiness and health of the immigrants and their families, though they come from poor homelands . The book portrays the immigrants in a positive way by narrating different immigrant cultures most of which are useful for the individuals to develop themselves.
In the book, author Kolker talks about the customs belonging to different countries, including the Money Club of the Vietnamese and the custom of assisted marriage followed by the South Asians. She makes a note of the tradition of the Mexicans to parent a new mother for a period of 40 days after the birth of the child and the after-school programs implemented by the Koreans . Kolker talks about the reasons as to why the immigrants of Chicago residing in the poorer areas possess a good health in comparison to the equally straining Black residents in the nearby houses. The most interesting chapters written by Kolker called “How to Save,” explains about the Vietnamese Money Club called “hui,” which she starts with her immigrant friends in Houston. The term “hui” refers to the oldest Vietnamese traditions, which allows the people to save their money with the help of the peers .
In other words, hui involves a deal, in which the members of the community pay their share of amount each month. Every month, one member of the hui can claim the whole amount without any interest amount. The author narrates about another custom followed by the Vietnamese called ‘Com Thang’ in the chapter titled “How to eat”. ‘Com Thang’ is the process of delivering a healthy and inexpensive meal at the doorsteps . One of the impressive traditional customs of the Mexicans described by Kolker is ‘Cuarentena’. In the chapter called “How to Mother a Mother,” the author explains the reason for the low infant mortality rate of the babies belonging to the Mexican immigrants in contrary to the non-Hispanic women. According to the Mexican custom, the new mothers undergo a total care by the family members after the birth of the baby for a period of 40 days .
During this time, the family and the relatives of the new mother work united to make sure that the mother gets an ample amount of rest and adapts the baby. Kolker suggests to the Americans that customs like ‘Cuarentena’ are crucial as they help both the mother and the baby to live a peaceful and healthier life . The next chapter “How to Be a Good Neighbor” gives a description of the experiences of the residents of the neighborhood called Little Village in Chicago. The people residing in this village belong to the towns and villages of Mexico. Despite of frequent occurrence of asthma in the rural areas of the United States, Little Village has a very less rate of diseases and illnesses . Kolker reveals the reason as the depth of the social interaction of the people of Little Village. The people of Little Village enjoy their spare time on the stoops and sidewalks, interacting with their neighbors, and playing and observing the children.
The Mexican immigrants living in this village also walk to the stores and markets as most of them don’t own cars. The outdoor tasks of the Mexicans are the reason for their immunity and resistance to diseases, such as asthma. The vigilance of the Mexicans in the area helps to spy the neighborhood and decrease the crime rate. Another important custom followed by the Koreans is ‘hagwons’. ‘Hagwon’ is a useful program, which offers after-school help to the students in the subjects that are supplementary to the routine curriculum of the Asian students . The chapter “How to Learn,” mentions about the higher rates of academic achievement in the Asian-American immigrants due to the integration of the best schools and supportive tutors through the program ‘Hagwon’. The result of the program ‘Hagwon’ is the improvement of the grades of the students and their increased motivation towards studies .
Moreover, the immigrant parents give importance to ‘Hagwon’ as it is inexpensive in comparison to the private tuitions offered by tutors. The parents’ involvement in the academics of their children is one of the main causes as to why the immigrant children are the best in the schools unlike native-born Americans . The chapter “How to Court” describes the tradition of ‘assisted’ marriages. Most of the immigrants belonging to Indian and other South Asian countries do not prefer arranged marriages like several other Americans. As they enter their 20s and 30s, the parents of the individuals take the responsibility of helping their children in getting married through a unique concept of ‘assisted’ marriages . The parents distribute the bio-data of their children in their community and allow them to select a partner of their choice.
‘Assisted’ marriages have no or negligible scope for divorces as the parents and the family of the individuals always supports the couple when conflicts arise. In the chapter “How to Shelter,” the author discusses about the customs of the Caribbean immigrants. The Jamaicans as well as the Caribbean enter the United States in more numbers as they have a greater economic advantage in comparison to other immigrants. Having easier access to the visas and educational institutions, and being fluent in English, the Jamaicans and Caribbean have higher chances of employment in the United States . As they reach the age of 40, the Jamaicans and the Caribbean prefer the intergenerational homes in order to boost the income of their family and live in a decent neighborhood, which has access to higher standard educational institutions. They save money for the future of their children to get them higher education.
In the book “The Immigrant Advantage,” Kolker values how the immigrants belonging to distinct cultures adopt and implement their traditions and customs in order to help their family members not only in the Unites States, but also in their homelands. The author observes that the customs of the immigrants are important for the American citizens as they help them to deal with the situations in a positive way . Kolker mentions that the citizens of the United States must understand the importance of the family in supporting the children instead of separating them to lead their life as soon as they reach the age of fourteen or sixteen. In spite of the positive aspects of the culture followed by the immigrants, the Americans filled with independence; do not tend to accommodate their traditions and customs as they believe the immigrants as culturally substandard foreigners .
After a one year-long experiment, the author publishes the book with various facts, which are not present in the lives of the Americans. Kolker feels bad about the way the traditions and customs of the immigrants fade away as they expose themselves to the life of the United States. However, it is necessary for the Americans to value certain customs of the immigrants, such as maternal health, entrepreneurship, schooling and social bonds . In the conclusion, Kolker mentions about the American society. She states that the country is experiencing a transformation in its practices, values and culture, for which the immigrants are responsible. After an in depth study of the economic, social, academic and health benefits obtained by the immigrants, Kolker feels the need to adapt some of the customs and traditions of the immigrants to deal with the challenges she faces in her life.
Kolker, Claudia. The Immigrant Advantage: What We Can Learn from Newcomers to America about Health, Happiness and Hope. Simon and Schuster, 2011.