The Emotional Challenges of Immigration Strategies and stories of those who stayed
by Ellie Baker
When I took on this book for review, I thought it would contain all sorts of advice I didn’t need. After all, I had immigrated almost half a century before and I think of myself as a Kiwi. Most of the time, anyway. Occasionally someone comments on my accent (usual example: “Where are you from?” someone asks. “Auckland,” says I. “Oh, yes, well, I mean, ah, you have an accent…”). I forget I’m different, forget I stand apart by my accent and occasionally by my reactions. This little book brought all the learning I’ve done into focus.
Important example: when my children were small, I was acutely aware that my parents lived in another continent, another hemisphere. No ringing up for a handy babysitter. No getting advice over cups of tea. No support network of any kind. It was tough. I’d forgotten how tough until reading this book and realising how isolated I’d been at that time and how important my friends became. How useful this book would have been to me back then. How useful it will be to people like me new to a chosen country.
Ellie Baker has included a huge variety of subjects that impact the immigrant, more than I would have guessed prior to reading it. The chapter on overseas visitors is priceless and made me yearn for the times when my late parents came out here, throwing our lives into chaos in our struggle to give them a wonderful time.
Another subject I loved reading about was the farewelling of your overseas visitors. She talks of PLT (pre-leaving tension – lovely, isn’t it). Those silly thoughts…this is the last lunch we’ll have…this is the last night, I must make it fantastic…tomorrow she’ll be gone – that sort of thing.
The actual leaving can be fraught. My mother and I had a pact. We arrive at the airport, busying ourselves with the minutiae of baggage and boarding passes until we find ourselves at the yawning opening which swallows up passengers. The one of us leaving turns to the other with a quick hug and says, “See ya,” and walks through without looking back. It’s the surgeon’s scalpel that heals. We did that for decades. So good, so very very good. It certainly suited us although maybe there are people out there who enjoy the crying, long hugs, more wailing, promises over and over again to return the visit etc. but, for the life of me (as my mother would say), I can’t imagine it’s actually enjoyable… “See ya.” And turn away towards the life you’ve chosen.
There are several notable chapters, the one on marriage (immigrant vs mixed, meaning only one is an immigrant) and the one on separation and divorce are excellent and full of experiences of the various people Ellie Baker interviewed (I could add a few experiences of my own here…). In fact, these interviews make up a good proportion of the book. Often her interviewees don’t agree. Of course, we always get Ellie’s own first-hand experience story.
Each chapter always ends with a short set of bullet-points about the topics covered. Then a list of strategies for coping in difficult circumstances. Somehow that synopsis lets it all fall into place. Each time.
Know an immigrant? Make a present of this book. It certainly made me laugh, cry and remember.
Author: Ellie Baker
Publisher: Smeaton Publishing
Printed paperback, Kindle e-book, Smashwords ebook
Available from: Amazon, Fishpond, www.migrantemotions.com, Carsons bookshop Thames, Chapters Bookshop Pukekohe, Whanga Books Whangamata