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?
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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