Leela K., 11th- Berkeley, CA
There is a sound so soft and sweet it must be echoed inside of our heads as we walk the
streets of the golden country. There is a croon, a cry, a leftover wail, crescendoing with age, but
no matter - it’s all quiet on the Western front. Pull yourself up by your bootstraps, kid. Yeah, I
know. Some bootstraps are tighter than others. No matter - keep your pendulum heart to yourself.
In this country, you are a paradox. I know this makes you angry. Calm your rage with a
hamburger. Find yourself in the Disney channel while you’re at it. Can’t find yourself? No
matter - lose yourself in the Disney channel instead.
You are an immigrant’s promise, multiplied by history, divided by status, subtracted from
singularity. Every child learns what it’s like to carry a country on their back. You gotta carry two
countries, harbor two histories, dream in two languages. Don’t walk away from me - where will
you go? Back home? Try it. See where you end up. Don’t chase circles and then blame me when
you’re right back where you’ve started.
Go ahead and cry me a river. After you’re done, put on a bikini and swim in it. Look,
observation is your friend, you can assimilate before the age of eight. I’ll help you, just
look me in the eye and tell me you’re done. Done with baby hands on Mama’s Sitar, and done
with the Roti existence. Done with rounder sounds, louder sounds. Done with
coconut oil nights and turmeric days, done with the cartwheeling accent. Tell me you’re done
with it all, and I’ll give you everything you’ve ever wanted.
I’ll give you yellow hair and blue eyes and a little button nose. I’ll give you pop music
and Ice Age and cute Mary Janes. I’ll give you Gatorade and jean jackets and tether balls. I’ll
make you a citizen, a part of the population. Just promise me you won't look in the mirror,
I am America’s dream. You are America’s child. Come, child of identity and refuge. Sit
by my side. Give me a kiss. Let’s sit and watch the concrete crack.
Students 6th-12th Grades