Come On In is a collection of fifteen stories, organized around the central theme of immigration. Specifically, about how immigrants feel as they try to fit into life in the United States, which they understand through film, TV, or books…or sometimes, not at all. The anthology is edited by Adi Alsaid, and also includes short stories from Alaya Dawn Johnson, Maureen Goo, Justine Larbalestier, and Maria E. Andreu, among others. Each short story is a work of fiction, but also appears to be based on the lives or family histories of the authors themselves, judging by the origin country of each main character, and the decidedly authentic and nostalgic feelings running through the book.
“Only at this moment do I realize the brutality of it. What is goodbye? Does it mean I will see you again? Or perhaps I love you? Or perhaps it means hold on to me and don’t let me go, because I am not certain I will be myself anywhere but here.” — Nafiza Azad, All the Colors of Goodbye
Lately, I feel like I comment on timeliness each time I review a book. But, this is by far the most timely to date, as the authors offer up commentary on deportations, travel bans, TSA and ICE. They paint pictures of student visa holders, and immigrants fleeing religious oppression or violence, who are so grateful for the opportunities that the U.S. offers, yet terrified at the prospect of giving up their identity, living in constant fear that their loved ones might be deported, or that they may never be able to go home to see elderly relatives. The book touches on how immigrant communities deal with the cultural expectations of male and female roles in the more permissive environment of America, and to what extent homosexuality can be embraced or accepted. And in one surprising addition, readers are transported back in time to Great Depression era New York City, as seen through the eyes of an Irish Australian immigrant, who has no idea what the concepts of white and black are…or why skin color should matter at all.
I’m a white girl, married to a Hispanic man. I count myself lucky to have grown up in a diverse community, with open-minded parents, who impressed upon me the importance of seeking understanding and fairness for all people regardless of race, religion, gender, or any other human characteristic. Because of this I have many different types of friends, and I like to think that I have a well rounded perspective, and yet there were still plenty of times while reading Come On In, that I paused to reflect and think. I cannot recommend this book enough; regardless of age, life experience, or world view, there is a little something for everyone!