Utne Blogs > Literature

From the Stacks: two.one.five

by Kari Volkmann-Carlsen 

Tags: essay writing, two.one.five, magazines, From the Stacks, immigration, personal narratives,

two.one.fivePhiladelphia’s new double-covered two.one.five magazine is a hodgepodge of local events and issues that stretch much further than the borders of Pennsylvania. Paging through one side of volume 1.3 (not yet available online) you’ll find a daring swimsuit spread and tips on executing the perfect road trip. Flip it around and you’ll get lost in a captivating nine-part section of immigration narratives. Echoing with national relevance, the essays meander through the diverse experiences of new Americans' dreams and realities.

These are people who have waited years, sometimes decades, to call the United States their home. One now-permanent resident offers up a humorous account detailing the process of obtaining a work permit through the green card lottery. Though armed with a bachelor’s degree and a job offer from a magazine in New York, it still took “11 years, three lawyers, four instances of being fingerprinted, 23 interviews with immigration officers at 14 different U.S. ports of entry, one near deportation, almost $13,000 in legal fees and 38 two-by-two-inch recent, forward facing photographs in which I am not wearing sunglasses or headgear of any kind” for the Canadian-passport toting American-hopeful to obtain the right to live in the United States.

From an entirely different vantage point, Tara Nurin shares the view from her seat at a stadium packed with immigrant soccer players gathered for the weekly marathon of games. She writes:

This is their reward. This one communal gathering of the Imperial Azteca soccer league that counts 600 dedicated players—some of whom drive up to two hours each way in order to play—is almost as sacred as church. Inside the arena, these mostly Latino immigrants, hailing largely from Mexico, can leave behind their concerns over money and their low-paying, labor-intensive jobs to partake in their home country’s most glorious international athletic obsession, and to share a slap on the back, a handmade taco and a sense of community with their fellow countrymen. This comforting simulation of Mexico protects them from what can be a discomforting reality outside.

From feeling homesick to battling language barriers, these stories revolve around much more than what was left behind: They paint an extraordinary portrait of life after immigrating, in a country whose media largely represent immigrants in a negative light. Beautifully and candidly written by various new American residents, from Burmese to Russian to Iraqi, these diverse narratives share the experience of our growing country and highlight just what it means to be an American.