"USEFUL PHRASES FOR IMMIGRANTS" BY MAY-LEE CHAI STORIES
The great thing about the United States is that it is a country made up of people from all over the world. It is a beautiful melting pot. For the vast majority of Americans, the common denominator is there is an immigrant or two in their past and we are a sea of ethnicities. When our relatives left their place of birth for a better life in the U.S., they became Americans. In May-Lee Chai’s stories Useful Phrases for Immigrants (Blair, 143 pages) parents and children cope with place and identity. The collection of eight stories are told with a Chinese or half-Chinese protagonist. The title stories, “Useful Phrases for Immigrants” shares the inner concerns and observations of a young woman trying to move out her in-laws without dishonor. Within her multi-generational household, she struggles to cope with the standards of the past and the American life she wants now. “Fish Boy” tells the tale of a child who moves from his small village to help provide for his family and gets tangled up with the city’s street gang. Lying to his grandfather about his new life, the boy learns he must adapt quickly if he is going to survive. A young woman comes to terms with her
August 8 to August 14, 2019
white mother’s death after her Chinese uncle reminds her of the “old ways” to honor the dead in “Ghost Festivals.” A naked girl is found murdered at a Beijing construction sight in “The Body.” Told from several points of view, the reader learns how complicated life is in China’s corrupt and changing world where people are expendable. “Canada” tells the story of a pre-teen girl who cannot yet comprehend the world and the strange mixture of her white and Chinese cultures. With her extended family growing all around her, she is mystified by the adults’ small talk and decisions. On the cusp of adulthood, her innocence is quickly disappearing. When a daughter goes home for her dying mother’s birthday in “The Lucky Day,” she discovers her mom is a fragile human being but also tough as nails. “First Carvel in Beijing” is about a Chinese grad student visiting her white ex-girlfriend who discovers there is a new Carvel ice cream parlor in Beijing. Reminding her of her young and innocent life growing up in America, the women indulge, not only in the sweet dessert, but in each other. An aging father and his daughter share their truths and love for one another in “Shouting Means I Love You.” My favorite story in the collection is “The Lucky Day.” In this little snippet of life, the daughter, who believed she was her mother’s
BY HEIDI SIMMONS
least favorite child, is now the only one who can help her dying mother. The mother asks her daughter to commit suicide with her but when she refuses, the mother instead settles on going to the racetrack to bet on the horses. For the first time, the daughter sees that her mother is much more than an ignorant Chinese immigrant from a small village, but a complicated woman not that different from herself.
In these brief and personal stories about identity, the reader gets insight into the changing and complicated world of China, the strict rules of honor and the challenging cultural differences. In a subtly but powerful way, the stories also shed light on the horrors of climate change, cheap labor, government corruption and humanitarian crises that bring people to this country with hopes for a better way of life. These stories shed light on how immigrants and their children -- whether the first generation is born in the United States or brought to the country as youngsters -- all struggle to fit in and find the cultural balance not just at home, but also within their communities and at work.
FROM THE CHIEFS CORNER
BY FIRE CHIEF SAM DIGIOVANNA
LET’S HAVE SOME CLASS ON… BACK-TO-SCHOOL SAFETY AWARENESS!
hen I was younger I hated all the back-to-school commercials. They were a dreaded reminder that summer was over and pretty soon, I’d be back inside a hot, stuffy classroom, mourning my lost freedom. As an adult, the back-to-school season brings another warning: Morning and afternoon commutes will now involve throngs of students walking, bicycling, driving or riding buses to and from school. We were all kids once, so we know we can’t count on them to be paying attention. That’s why it’s important to use extra caution while driving in school zones. The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) estimates that 75 school-age pedestrians are killed each year during school travel. These are preventable deaths! Let’s share some lessons and start a safety campaign in the communities we protect with these safety reminders: • It is illegal to pass a school bus that is stopped to load or unload children. • School buses use yellow flashing lights to alert motorists that they are preparing to stop to load or unload children. Red flashing lights and an extended stop sign arm signals to motorists that the bus is stopped and children are getting on or off the bus. • The area 10 feet around a school bus is where children are in the most danger of being hit. Stop your car far enough from the bus to allow children the necessary space to safely enter and exit the bus. • Be alert. Children walking to or from their bus are usually very comfortable with their surroundings. This makes them more likely to take risks, ignore hazards or fail to look both ways when crossing the street. • Drivers should not block the crosswalk when stopped at a red light or waiting to make a
turn. Do not stop with a portion of your vehicle over the crosswalk. • In a school zone when a warning flasher or flashers are blinking, you must stop to yield the right-of-way to a pedestrian crossing the roadway within a marked crosswalk or at an intersection with no marked crosswalk. • Remember, children are the least predictable pedestrians and the most difficult to see. Take extra care to look out for children not only in school zones, but also in residential areas, playgrounds and parks. • Don’t honk your horn, rev your engine or do anything to rush or scare a child or pedestrian in front of your car, even if you have the legal right-of-way. • Did I mention – put that cell phone AWAY! Now that’s just the first lesson. There’s much more schooling on safety if you’re interested in spreading this safety message, check out: nsc. org/Safety_Home/SafetyObservances/Pages/ BackToSchoolSafety.aspx. Fire Chief Sam DiGiovanna
Coachella Valley Weekly - August 8 to August 14, 2019 Vol. 8 No. 21