What Does It Mean To Be An American? What Is the American Dream? These are questions that have been asked since the founding of our nation. The answers to these questions are diverse and have affected our lives in many different ways. Nicola Yoon’s book The Sun Is Also A Star addresses these questions from the perspectives of the two main characters, Natasha and Daniel. Both of them live in New York and end up meeting each other, but they come from largely different backgrounds. However, despite their differences, the two characters begin to become friends, and eventually fall in love.

Natasha is a Jamaican immigrant, brought here as a child, whose family is now facing deportation. Throughout the course of this story, she tries to find a way for her family to stay because she has built a whole life here. At one point, Natasha says that “America is my home in my heart, and how citizenship will legalize what I already feel” (Yoon 112). This shows that Natasha really wants to be a part of America, and she wants the opportunity that it gives to make a life here. Many immigrants today are facing this same problem. With the increasing tension over immigration policy and the stricter stance the government is taking over it, many immigrants are uncertain whether they’ll even have the opportunity to achieve this American Dream. For them, they just want to start a life here. They want to be able to escape from whatever adversity they face in their country and take on a new challenge, the challenge of being American. To them, the American Dream is to simply be here, and have the chance of having more opportunities in America. In The Sun Is Also A Star, Natasha’s situation parallels the dilemma that many immigrants are facing today. The desire to have a chance to be American, and the fear of not being able to.

Daniel was raised here but comes from a Korean background. His parents came here to achieve the “American Dream” by owning a small store. Since Daniel was raised here, they expect him to live a good and prosperous life, since he has more opportunities. They want him to become a doctor. This idea of wealth being a part of the American Dream is present in real life as well. In the New York Times Article The Transformation of the ‘American Dream,’” the author says, “Thanks in part to the deluge of advertisements, many people came to associate the American Dream with home ownership” (Shiller para. 15). This shows that, while the American Dream still has Freedom and Equality as important ideas, wealth and prosperity have also come into play. However, to Daniel wealth doesn’t matter as much, and doing something that you love and are passionate about is more important. Daniel’s passion is poetry, and while he’s not entirely sure that he wants to pursue that as a career, he likes it better than medicine. At one point in the book, Daniel goes to an admissions interview and realizes that he really doesn’t want to be a doctor. When the interviewer then asked why he was here, he said “My parents are immigrants. They moved to this country for a better life. They work all the time so my brother and I can have the American Dream. Nowhere in the American Dream does it say you can skip college and become a starving artist” (Yoon 291), to which his interviewer then replied “It says whatever you want it to” (Yoon 291). This perspective shows that the American Dream is about pursuing your passion, even if it’s not what other people expect.

The question of the American Dream is an open-ended one with many answers. The characters in The Sun Is Also A Star are two perspectives out of many, and it’s apparent that they have different perspectives and ways of answering this question. This same principle applies to life as well. In the New York Times article “What Does America Stand For? We Asked Teenagers,” author Anna North composed a video of teenagers expressing their opinions on their own American values. One of them said  “My values are centered around my upbringing. I was taught how to work hard by watching my parents’ entrepreneurial efforts of starting the business from the ground up. I saw them achieve the American Dream. They started from nothing and turned it into something big” (North). This teenager showed that his main value is hard work and when asked that question, that was probably the first thing he thought of. Another teenager, when asked this question, said “We’re raising kids who only focus on the differences between them and others. They see somebody who doesn’t look like them, they say, ‘You don’t have the same right to be here as I do’ they look at somebody and listen to somebody and they say ‘They don’t talk like me, that person doesn’t have as much to contribute to this world as I do,’ and it’s a very dangerous way of thinking” (North). This shows that his main value is equality and inclusivity, which is what he first thought of when asked this questions. Both of these people may not necessarily disagree with each other on many values. However, based on their initial responses to this question of American values, it shows which beliefs and creeds are most important to them.

So what does it mean to be American? Is it about equality? Hard work? Freedom? All these perspectives shown here show just how many different ways this question can be answered. From these people, both in a fictional novel and in the real world, it shows that there is no right answer to this question because everyone is going to think something different. So the real question is, what’s your answer?

 

Citations:

North, Anna. “What Does America Stand For? We Asked Teenagers.” The New York Times. The New York Times, 23 Aug. 2017. Web.

Shiller, Robert J. “The Transformation of the ‘American Dream’.” The New York Times. The New York Times, 04 Aug. 2017. Web.

Yoon, Nicola. The Sun Is Also a Star. N.p.: Random House Childrens, 2016. Print.

 

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CC BY-SA 4.0 Our American Values. In texts and in real life. by Sophia is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 4.0 International License.

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19 Comments
  1. Shabria 6 months ago

    Dear Sophia,

    I am intrigued by your post, “Our American Values. In texts and in real life,” because you discuss how immigrants are still facing difficulties trying to live and American life or “the American Dream”.

    A line you wrote that stood out to me is “The question of the American Dream is an open-ended one with many answers.” This stands out to me because this is a very true statement. Many people have different views and perspectives to this question, though the most styreotypical answer to the universal question is “ To be successful or to be living your dream life comfortably.”

    Another line that stood out to me that you wrote in this article is “So what does it mean to be American? Is it about equality? Hard work? Freedom? All these perspectives shown here show just how many different ways this question can be answered. From these people, both in a fictional novel and in the real world, it shows that there is no right answer to this question because everyone is going to think something different.” I found this interesting because if you were to ask 5 people this question maybe ⅘ people would have an answer similar to this.

    A lot of people would have the steryotypical answer to this question whereas some others will have a different answer whether it might relate to their living conditions or race or cultural background.

    Thank you for writing and sharing I enjoyed reading this and look forward to see your next work.

  2. Shabria 6 months ago

    Dear Sophia,
    I am intrigued by your post, “Our American Values. In texts and in real life,” because you discuss how immigrants are still facing difficulties trying to live and American life or “the American Dream”.
    A line you wrote that stood out to me is “The question of the American Dream is an open-ended one with many answers.” This stands out to me because this is a very true statement. Many people have different views and perspectives to this question, though the most styreotypical answer to the universal question is “ To be successful or to be living your dream life comfortably.”
    Another line that stood out to me that you wrote in this article is “So what does it mean to be American? Is it about equality? Hard work? Freedom? All these perspectives shown here show just how many different ways this question can be answered. From these people, both in a fictional novel and in the real world, it shows that there is no right answer to this question because everyone is going to think something different.” I found this interesting because if you were to ask 5 people this question maybe ⅘ people would have an answer similar to this.
    A lot of people would have the steryotypical answer to this question whereas some others will have a different answer whether it might relate to their living conditions or race or cultural background.
    Thank you for writing and sharing I enjoyed reading this and look forward to see your next work.

  3. Devine 6 months ago

    Dear: Sophia

    I am very satisfied with the conclusion you came to in your post “Our American Values. In texts and in real life.”. The conclusion that the “American Dream” is a concept that is left up to individuals in America to decide is admirable. Everyone getting to choose their own path in this imperfect country is an idea that I found very easy to get behind.

    A sentence you wrote that stood out was “What Does It Mean To Be An American? What Is the American Dream? These are questions that have been asked since the founding of our nation. The answers to these questions are diverse and have affected our lives in many different ways.”. I thought this was interesting because I’d never thought about how someone’s idea of the American Dream could affect their way of life ever before in my life.

    Another sentence I admired was, “So what does it mean to be American? Is it about equality? Hard work? Freedom? All these perspectives shown here show just how many different ways this question can be answered.”. This sentence gave off a sense of equality to me due to how inclusive the speech used in it was. It fit very well with the overall message of your post.

    Your post made the point that no matter where your origin is, you can still make your mark in the country and that is something I agree with. One reason I say this is that since the country is built on equality and opportunity, then everyone who lives in it should have a place in it. Another reason I agree with this is because of the way the post expresses sympathy towards those who struggle with making a way in this country.

    Thank you for making your post. Your insightful thoughts and sympathetic views really drew me into the text. The American Dream is still something most people are in pursuit of so your future work will keep me reading about your ideas and how they may change.

  4. Aniyah N 6 months ago

    Dear Sophia :

    I am very intrigued by your post, “Our American Values. In texts and in real life.” because… it’s very true and I couldn’t agree more. You go into deep thought about the differences in text and real life but then group together about how they really are related.

    One sentence you wrote that stands out for me is: “What Does It Mean To Be An American? What Is the American Dream? These are questions that have been asked since the founding of our nation. The answers to these questions are diverse and have affected our lives in many different ways.” I think this is praiseworthy because it shows that there is, in fact no right answer because of the simple fact that we’ve been asking for so long and there hasn’t been an answer to the questions.

    Another sentence that I enjoyed was: “So what does it mean to be American? Is it about equality? Hard work? Freedom? All these perspectives shown here show just how many different ways this question can be answered. From these people, both in a fictional novel and in the real world, it shows that there is no right answer to this question because everyone is going to think something different.” This stood out for me because it’s simply correct, everyone has a different perspective on life. One person can think their living the best life, while others may think that they have the worst life ever. It’s just about how you view life and who you are.

    I do strongly agree with you that everyone will have a different opinion about the questions. One reason I say this is that I know that I have a different view from “ Natasha she said that the american dream is just to be here”. I have a different answer from a girl in a book.

    Thanks for your writing. I look forward to seeing what you write next, because the way you relate books/articles from the past to the real world. Also having a type of writing where it can be replied to, and having me answer a question at the end allows for a better free write.

  5. Jala 8 months ago

    Dear Sophia,
    I was very happy while reading your post “Our American Values. In texts and in real life. It was heartwarming. I also was happy that Natasha found love. To me I think that was the best part. One sentence that stood out was “His parents came here to achieve the ‘American Dream’ by owning a small store.” I think it is not always right to believe in the “American Dream” because it’s not really an achievement. It is nearly impossible to live that dream unless you really have it like that. Another sentence that stood out was “My parents are immigrants. They moved to this country for a better life. They work all the time so my brother and I can have the American Dream.” that stood out because he bold enough to tell the workers that his parents were immigrants. I really enjoyed reading your article. Keep writing articles like these and I will be back to read more. They were very interesting and different.

  6. James 8 months ago

    Dear sophia,

    I am happy with your blog post “our American values. In text and in real life” because you explained what the American dream was and what was it is to be an american.

    One sentence you wrote that stands out for me is, “so what does it mean to be american? It is equality? Hard work? Freedom? All these perspective here show just how many different ways this question can be answered ” I think this is a great quote because because this is the truth in my eyes

    Another sentence that I agreed with was: “people, both in a fictional novel and in the real world, it shows that there is no right answer to this question because everyone is going to think something different.” This stood out for me because i agree with what you’re saying it not just one answer because it is a lot of people in the world with different opinions

    I agree with you that it is no one answer to what is the American dream. One reason I say this is because again there are many people in this world. And there is too many opinions in this world for one answer to be correct. Another reason I agree with you is

    Thanks for your writing. I look forward to seeing what you write next because i think you’re very intelligent writer. Also I like what topics you choose on what to write about.

  7. Brenda 8 months ago

    Dear Sophia,

    I am captivated by your post “ Our African Values. In Texts and in Real Life” because you talked about how immigrants are coming to this country to have a better chance to make a change in their lives by achieving their American Dreams. Some immigrants are learning to live with fear every day because they are scared of being deported back and having their dreams being crushed. One sentence you wrote that stands out for me is ” They want to be able to escape from whatever adversity they face in their country and take on a new challenge, the challenge of being American.” I think this is true because American citizens don’t know the struggle that the immigrants were facing when they were living in their countries. Another sentence that caught my attention was “ America is my home in my heart, and how citizenship will legalize what i already feel.” this stood out for me because it shows that immigrants can do the same thing that citizens in this country can do and nothing can stop them for pursuing their dreams. I do agree with you that there isn’t an answer to what it means to be american. Everybody has their own meaning of being american. One reason i say this is because many people has their own opinion due to their race and where they come from. Another reason why i think this is because everybody thinks that the United States is the country that everyone can make their dreams become successful and due to the fact that the United States is really diverse and nobody really knows the meaning of being American. Thanks for your writing. I look forward to seeing what you write next, because i liked the way how you added information about other people and their experience in being in this country and showing that other people might have the same idea as you. Another thing that i liked about your article was that you really stated your opinions and added a lot of facts and details to your writing. I really look forward to what you write next.

  8. 7133399@philasd.prg 8 months ago

    Dear Sophia,
    I am uplifted by your article “Our American Values. In Texts and In Real Life” because I found what you wrote on how no one knows the true meaning of what it is like to be American. It’s about a person own views and passion. Everyone have different inputs on the topic.

    One sentence you wrote that stands out for me is: “This perspective shows that the American Dream is about pursuing your passion, even if it’s not what other people expect.” I think this is true because it’s all on the person and what they want their American Dream to be.

    Another sentence that I agreed on was: “All these perspectives shown here show just how many different ways this question can be answered”. Everyone have different point of views. But if a person is passionate then it really should not matter of what others think.

    I do fairly with you that people come to America to get be free and live a better life. One reason I say this because America is a escape for some people from other countries. Another reason is America can sometimes give better opportunities for some people.

    Thanks for your writing. I look forward to seeing what you write next, because you wrote what you thought was right and what needed to be heard, and I appreciated it. You related and showed the point of views to others.

  9. Francisco 8 months ago

    Dear Sophia,

    I am enthused by your article titled “Our American Values. In Texts and Real Life”, because of your view of the difference between the values of a citizen and those of a immigrant. Also by how you put emphasis on how immigrants only wish to make a future for themselves such as actual citizens wish for. 
    
    One sentence you wrote that stands out to me is: “America is my home in my heart, and how citizenship will legalize what I already feel.” I think this is meaningful because as a former immigrant I could relate with the sentence. It gives us hope that we can make something with our lives.
    
    Another sentence that I enjoyed was: ““It says whatever you want it to.” This stood out to me because the person was talking about what citizenship is and how it can be a different opportunity for whatever the individual wishes it to be.
    
    I do agree with you that there is no real answer to what it means to be american. One reason I say this is because many humans can think alike but never the same due to everyone having their own opinions and backgrounds. Another reason I agree with you is because the United States is one of the most diverse countries in the world that so many cultures have revolutionised to the point that no one can answer “What it means to be American?”.
    
    Thanks for your writing. I look forward to seeing what you write next, because I love the way you give your insight on such opinionated conflicts in the United States of America. Also I enjoyed how you related actual text to the article you were writing to show how you are not the only one with this opinion. I very much loved reading this article and can’t see what you come up with next.
    
  10. April 10 months ago

    Dear Sophia,

    I am interested with your post Our “American Values. In texts and in real life”. I say this because it shows how these incidents of immigrants wanting to live the american dream are very true. How the stereotype of the american dream is to become more so a hard working business person over actually pursuing your dream, whatever that may be. Something that stood out majorly for me was the quote , “My parents are immigrants. They moved to this country for a better life. They work all the time so my brother and I can have the American Dream. Nowhere in the American Dream does it say you can skip college and become a starving artist”. I think this is absolutely true because when pursuing the “American dream” the typical job a person is thought to have is a successful mainstream job. Never playing out the factor of actually doing what someone may want to do. Another sentence that stood out to me was the statement “Both of them live in New York and end up meeting each other, but they come from largely different backgrounds. However, despite their differences, the two characters begin to become friends, and eventually fall in love”. This really represents interracial love, and how openly it has became accepted. I feel like it is beautiful that two very different races and cultures with immigrant parents can find love in this day in age. I do agree with you that there is really no one answer to what does it mean to be American. I say this because everyone has lived a different life with different experiences and obstacles so no one answer could possibly be the exact same to another’s. I appreciate you writing your post and giving your take on the topic. I look forward to reading more of thoughts and hope to see you bring back all of your good connections.

  11. Karen 11 months ago

    Dear Sophia,

    Thank you for writing this post and for planning a YouthCast session around this important topic.

    I live on the Mexican border and so immigration-related issues are always on my mind. The American Dream and what it means to be “American” is something that concerns all of us though. These are important issues, and the way in which we think about them and more importantly, act on them will affect the future of our nation.

    Your writing and citations are excellent. Keep up the good work, and I look forward to reading more about this.

  12. Anthony 11 months ago

    Dear Sophia :

    I was interested by the blog you posted “Our American Values.In texts and in real life”,because I didn’t know that so many young people who built their whole life in America were still being affected from immigration. I can relate because some of my family are immigrants. One sentence you wrote that stands out f is: “ The answers to these questions are diverse and have affected our lives in many different ways. ” I think this is important because the immigrants have a voice and should be able to talk about how they feel about the society they live in. Another sentence that I thought was important is: “ the American Dream is about pursuing your passion, even if it’s not what other people expect.” This stood out because I agree that this is what the American Dream means, following your dreams and what you believe in, and what you think is best for you and your family. I agree with you because when immigrants come to America them have to learn to become accustomed to the culture. I also agree because their coming from somewhere other than America so their customs , where they come from may be different. I appreciate this article and look forward to what you write next.

  13. Ahmiah 11 months ago

    Dear Sophia,

    I was interested by the blog you posted “Our American Values.In texts and in real life”,because I didn’t know that so many young people who built their whole life in America were still being affected from immigration.To know that people who live their daily life like me have to worry about whether they should stay in a country that they’re not welcome to is so sad.One thing that stood out to me is that you said “They want to be able to escape from whatever adversity they face in their country and take on a new challenge, the challenge of being American.” This really stood out for me because I didn’t know there was a challenge to being an American or just living in America.So basically the government only give people who native country is not America which is really sad. “They see somebody who doesn’t look like them, they say, ‘You don’t have the same right to be here as I do’ they look at somebody and listen to somebody and they say ‘They don’t talk like me, that person doesn’t have as much to contribute to this world as I do,’ and it’s a very dangerous way of thinking” I really enjoyed this saying because even actual Americans think that about each other so imagine how immigrants feel about Americans and how Americans feel about the immigrants. Overall Sophia, you did a great job discussing this topic however next time just shorten the length of the blog the reader may lose interest fast. Thanks for your writing. I look forward to seeing what you write next, because you have talent with writing and stating your opinion. Have a great Day!

  14. Tyanne 11 months ago

    Dear Sophia:

    I am intrigued by your post, “Our American Values. In texts and in real life,” because you talk about the “American Dream”. Also how people come to America to achieve the ” American Dream” by owning stores or just have the opportunity to be in America.

    One sentence you wrote that stands out for me is: “ The answers to these questions are diverse and have affected our lives in many different ways. ” I think this is important because the immigrants have a voice and should be able to talk about how they felt.

    Another sentence that I found important was: “ the American Dream is about pursuing your passion, even if it’s not what other people expect.” This stood out for me because I agree this is what the American Dream means, following your dreams and what you believe in, and what you think is best for yourself.

    I do agree with you that some immigrants are facing dilemmas. One reason I say this is because when immigrants come over to America they have to find jobs, learn how to speak English if they don’t know how, and Racial Discrimination. Another reason I agree with you is they are coming from somewhere different and they are going to have to get use to the changes that are going to come with moving to America.

    Thanks for your writing. I look forward to seeing what you write next, because I would like to know your thoughts on Racial Discrimination. Also your thoughts on the Reconstruction Era.

  15. Kendra 11 months ago

    Dear Sophia:

    I was interested in to what you were saying about American Dream. One sentence you wrote that stands out for me is “The answers to these questions are diverse and have affected our lives in many different ways. ” I think this is important because it speaks the truth about how many immigrants feel and have been affected. Another sentence that I loved was “Daniel’s passion is poetry, and while he’s not entirely sure that he wants to pursue that as a career, he likes it better than medicine.” This stood out for me because American Dreams vary from person, one’s can to become wealthy and another’s can to provide safety for their family. Thanks for your writing. I look forward to seeing what you write next, because it seems that both think alike.

  16. Rebecca 12 months ago

    Hi Sophia!
    Your work was very well written. It is very important to recognize the different perspectives throughout our nation because it is what makes us so unique. Because you described other teenagers perspectives, whether fictional or in a recent article, I was able to see through their eyes and understand a bit about their different lives. You did a wonderful job explaining how your book relates to the topic of immigration, which like you mentioned is a very strongly disputed topic. Since I have no family who immigrated recently, I found this portion of your writing very interesting. You also discussed the question of what does it actually mean to be an American. I would love to learn more about what different individuals all across the country feel their American dream is, and how they could each begin to strive for it.
    Thank you for your piece, I look forward to reading what you write in the future.
    Rebecca

    • Author
      Sophia 12 months ago

      Thank you Rebecca!
      I totally agree with you about how important perspective is when it comes to other people and their views. Everyone in America comes from a different background, and has their own story that influences their opinions. I find that it’s really interesting when you talk about immigration. This issue is important to me since my mom immigrated here from Korea, and because of that we know many people who are immigrants who came to America. To me, this is just a part of life, which made it interesting to see your perspective on this topic. Thank you so much for your comment, and I look forward to your future work!

  17. Sovann 12 months ago

    Hi Sophia,
    First of all great post! The american dream is such a big topic that it’s really interesting to read other people’s thoughts on it. My parents are not immigrants so I have no experience with how immigrants think and feel about the american dream. Being able to read from their perspective is always so informative. For my family the american dream was get a good education and live a happy life. In some ways our dream is similar to immigrants, having a good education is highly valued. However unlike Daniel’s parents, my parents don’t care if I become successful or not, they just want me to do what makes me happy. This is my family’s american dream so I was wondering what yours was?

    • Author
      Sophia 12 months ago

      Thank you Sovann for your comment!
      I’m really intrigued by your question of the American Dream. If I had to answer, I guess the main part would be finding my passion and then doing it. Of course I would want to have a degree of success where I would still be able to live well, but to me having money and wealth is not as important as being happy. It’s interesting to see how the American Dream varies, because a lot of these dreams are based on past experiences. For example, Daniel’s parents want him to become successful because they weren’t as successful themselves growing up. It’s interesting to see how different people’s pasts can influence their future. Thank you so much for your comment and I look forward to reading your future work!

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