The essential questions of American values, beliefs, creed, and culture can be found throughout American literature. Books written by American authors contain the author’s perspective, which has been shaped by their own answers to these questions. In Brooke Hauser’s narrative, New Kids, many of Hauser’s values as well as the values of our nation are main themes of the text. Some of the most essential questions in our country include “What are American values?” and “What is the American Dream?”.
New Kids has many overarching ideas to answer what American values are which make the book so interesting and thought provoking. However, one of the most prevalent ideas is that of diversity. The blend of many different cultures into one is seen throughout the story and is the foundation of the whole book. The main setting of the story is a high school full of kids who all come from different places, but end up in the same American city. At first, the children are portrayed to stay with other students from a common background or ethnicity. At lunch, the Dominicans sit with other Dominicans, the Tibetans sit with other Tibetans, and the Chinese sit with other Chinese. But throughout the story, there are many ways that this changes. Some students don’t have anyone else like them, some don’t fit in with the students of their culture, and others just don’t want to be limited to kids like them. One of the strongest friendships at the school is that of Yasmeen Salahi from Yemen and Jessica Tan from China, so different, yet so similar. Their bond is a great example of how one of America’s most important values is diversity, creating a place where different cultures are woven together. The importance of diversity as an American value can also be seen in “Three Lessons On The American Dream From Immigrant Entrepreneurs”, by Samantha Harrington, who spent time researching similar stories of immigrants who succeeded in America. Her article states that “…the reality is that immigrants are constantly pushing our communities to be stronger, more creative and more prosperous”(Harrington para 3). This shows that the diversity of America not only defines us, but it is what allows us to succeed.
One of the strongest features of the American Dream is striving for success. This definition of the American Dream is supported by “To Achieve the American Dream, Mind the Opportunity Gap”, by Doyle McManus, a foreign correspondent familiar with the dreams others hold in their countries. According to McManus, “The American dream is the idea that anyone can get ahead in life with talent and hard work”(McManus para 3). His views on the subject reflect that trying to be successful regardless of what you came from is a large part of the American Dream. This goal is a pivotal theme in New Kids. Each student at the school is there for one reason or another, but what they all share in common is that they are all trying to live their American Dream. Kids want to be doctors, teachers, presidents of their home countries, and anything else their hearts desire, even though they came from such difficult situations. The best answer to what the American Dream means doesn’t necessarily come from Americans who have lived here their whole lives, it can come from people who moved here with their dream and only that dream to guide them in this country. In the story, John Tan, Jessica Tan’s father, moves to America to live his American Dream of new opportunities. His journey for the dream is shown in detail, becoming a bigger part of his life than he could have ever imagined. Hauser shows just how powerful an American dream can be, sometimes stronger than anything else in the world.
New Kids is a book about kids who aren’t originally American, but it gives great insight into what being American is all about. Diversity is a big part of the story, addressing the question of “What are American values?” and the desire to succeed addresses the question of “What is the American Dream?”. It is a great book with many lessons about America inside it.
- Harrington, Samantha. “Three Lessons On The American Dream From Immigrant Entrepreneurs.” Forbes, Forbes Magazine, 28 Feb. 2017, www.forbes.com/sites/samanthaharrington/2017/02/28/three-lessons-on-the-america-dream-from-immigrant-entrepreneurs/#52fd43b7b0b6.
- McManus, Doyle. “To Achieve the American Dream, Mind the Opportunity Gap.” Los Angeles Times, Los Angeles Times, 17 May 2014, www.latimes.com/opinion/op-ed/la-oe-mcmanus-column-opportunity-gap-20140518-column.html.
- Hauser, Brooke. The New Kids: Big Dreams and Brave Journeys at a High School for Immigrant Teens. Atria Paperback, 2013.