As a young Latina, daughter of immigrants, I can relate to the themes from White Teeth written by Zadie Smith. Immigration has been an issue over decades over the world and Zadie Smith has experiences that shape many of the characters lives in the novel. Many characters are shaped by their cultural background and having a lack of acceptance from other people. White Teeth is a book that Americans can relate right now to the current events happening and because of the history of migration that has happened over the years. Reading the book you can experience the fear and outcomes of immigrating to another country where the culture is different.
Smith wrote about the experiences of first generation immigrants to England and their children. Even in the 21st century the topic of immigration is discussed and people realize that having different cultures and believes makes us different but connects us in a way. Smith is very passionate on the topic of immigration and how the children of immigrants feel the difference even if they grew up in a new country, that they are stuck between two worlds the parents’ culture and the new country’s culture. This book was written more than a decade ago, but many can relate to it.
I have experienced many of the things Irie, Millat, Magid, Alsana, and Clara have experienced because they are children of immigrants or immigrants themselves. Their skin color makes them foreigners when they were actually born in England, the same problem minorities have here in the United States. The fear immigrants have about their children’s assimilation to the new country and how their culture is being erased and substituted with a more one. Many people could say this quote today “This has been the century of strangers, brown, yellow, and white. This has been the century of the great immigrant experiment.
It is only this late in the day that you can walk into a playground and find Isaac Leung by the fishpond; Danny Rahman in the football cage, Quang O’Rourke is bouncing a basketball, and Irie Jones humming a tune. Children with first and last names on a direct collision course. Names that secrete within them mass exodus, cramped boats and planes, cold arrivals, medical checkups. It is only this late in the day, and possibly only in Willesden, that you can find best friends Sita and Sharon, constantly mistaken for each other because Sita is white (her mother liked the name) and Sharon is Pakistani (her mother thought it best-less trouble). (Smith, 271-272) and be correctly about how in the United States and in other countries every year there is a mass amount of immigration to different parts of the world and how the children of immigrants might have an more modern name or how the difference of appearance makes others judge them by the color of their skin or facial features and people do not bother to actually know the strange person or new group of immigrants values and beliefs.
Samad and Alsana were running away from natural disasters in Bangladesh, Hortonsa was running from Jamaica’s poverty and every group of new immigrants have a explanation of why they are immigrating and how this might affect their future generations. Is very interesting how many of the characters are shaped and transformed because of their cultural background and parents believe. My father grew up here next to Portland, but went back to Mexico got married and years later came back to make a family in the great country of opportunities, that I can see now it never existed for many of the people that come here.
My father after his deportation said a very similar quote that Samad said about how England is a country that people from other countries have to enter and many immigrants come to the mentality one day they will go back to their homeland with a little money. Immigrants in the United States are mistreated and discriminated the same as immigrants in England. Where people are not welcome, but just tolerated, people were welcome in World War Two but after that they are discriminated again. “I ometimes wonder why I bother,” said Samad bitterly, betraying the English inflections of twenty years in the country, “I really do. These days, it feels to me like you make a devil’s pact when you walk into this country.
You hand over your passport at the check-in, you get stamped, you want to make a little money, get yourself started… but you mean to go back! In a place where you are never welcomed… But you have made a devil’s pact… it drags you in and suddenly you are unsuitable to return, your children are unrecognizable, you belong nowhere. (Smith, 336) My siblings and I can go back to Mexico for vacation and stay there a month but we would not function the same way if we had to live there because the commodities and culture here is different. Samad as the same as my father and mother do not recognize their children many times, my mother more than once has told me that if I was in Mexico I would not disrespect her or be the way I am. Samad can’t recognize the action his own son is making and how his culture is being lost because they live in England.
If Smith had not added this quote about how the characters feel about their children the book would not make sense. She added many quotes about not only their feelings, but the people around them and by that she gave the reader a sense of environment the people were inside. Magid does not feel like he belongs in Bangladesh because he was born in England I have experience that, when I was in Mexico I feel like | could not belong because I knew at graduating elementary school I would move to the United States to learn English.
Magid was sent by Samad back to his homeland because of the sins he had committed and wanted to save one of his sons, but at the end, both children do not like the culture of their parents the way Alsana and Samad wished. Smith gave many examples of the fears of the people on the book to assimilation to the new country and makes the same mistakes he had committed by sleeping with its teacher. Samad is very religious and Smith also had many pages about how going to another country with a different religion than the one there can bring your children a ense of not been able to belong in public places where their beliefs are not similar to the one of the majority of the people. Smith also is a person of color had a very interesting quote about how your background will always be there like a shadow how the color of skin can have different destinations just by the way you look or where you live if you are an immigrant or a child of one.
“Because this is the other thing about immigrants (fugees, emigres, travelers): they cannot escape their history any more than you yourself can lose your shadow. (Smith,385) by having this quote the reader can think about how their background might have benefited them or had cons about how they were approached or their life experience in general, especially if the person lives in the United States where diversity is very common in many places. Irie daughter of Clara does not have a connection with Clara. Clara kept secrets about her life and even notable things that Clara should have told her daughter.
Smith added this in a very adequate time because that made Ire wants to get the truth of who she was and why she was there. In politics right now many of the second and third generation children of immigrants have a similar opinion that Irie had to actually want to know about their family history, but to the extent of idolizing their lives, how they would have been if they were back to their grandparents and older generation’s country.
Zadie Smith had many themes on her book but the one I was more interested in was immigration. Without having the events that happened in White Teeth and how the children and parents were impacted by their appearance, religion or any other factor that made them look foreigners to England is very similar to the minorities that are judged by the color of skin or features they have. Immigrations is impacting our society and I am glad I read this book that I can relate my life in many ways.