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A Portrait of the Immigrant as a Young Man (or Woman)

By Mary Ann Zehr — November 16, 2007 1 min read
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What’s really unusual about Learning a New Land: Immigrant Students in American Society, a book based on a five-year study of several hundred immigrant students, is the in-depth profiles of 16* immigrants in U.S. schools.

Anyone with any heart reading those portraits of foreign-born students, I believe, will likely conclude that it isn’t easy being an immigrant. The authors categorize the participants in their study as “declining achievers,” “low achievers,” “improvers,” or “high achievers.” Even the profiles of high achievers have an underlying sense of loss as some students become distant from their parents in pursuing their American dream. For example, the researchers write about Li, a high achiever from China: “For Li, his enviable academic success comes at a cost: Li’s father no longer recognizes this successful young man. Li has become a stranger—an immigrant—in his own family.”

The book is based on a study of immigrant students in the Boston and San Francisco areas conducted by researchers Carola and Marcelo M. Suarez-Orozco, joined by Irina Todorova, who worked on the project as a postdoctoral scholar. The study began as part of Harvard Immigration Projects at Harvard University, which, in 2004, became Immigration Studies at New York University.

Harvard University Press will release the book in February. My article in Education Week about it was posted online today.

*I wrote 21 previously.

A version of this news article first appeared in the Learning the Language blog.