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.

10 Comments
  1. April 1 month 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.

  2. Karen 1 month 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.

  3. Anthony 1 month 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.

  4. Ahmiah 1 month 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!

  5. Tyanne 1 month 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.

  6. Kendra 1 month 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.

  7. Rebecca 3 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 3 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!

  8. Sovann 3 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 3 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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