New York Times
July 3 2004

First, Get a Green Card. Next, Hire a Publicist.
By GARY SHTEYNGART

Lately I haven't been a good immigrant. I can't get myself to work an
80-hour week. I won't walk 20 blocks to save a subway fare. And I
don't have that crazed, adrenaline-driven certainty that life will
soon get better for me or mine. Maybe it's the gloomy times we live
in. Maybe it's the economy. Maybe it's the war. But most likely it's
that I'm sated -- the young immigrant's hunger and worries are gone.
I'm not fat and doughy just yet, but my midriff looks, to quote an
old friend, ''prosperous.''

Want and fear drive America: the want of security, dignity and wild
affluence, the fear of coming up short on all counts, the fear of
extinction in an unforgiving market economy that rewards only the
tireless and the unblinking. ''Remember the lesson of the . . . dodo
bird,'' Monette Adeva Maglaya cautions the newcomer in her remarkable
new book, THE COMPLETE SUCCESS GUIDE FOR THE IMMIGRANT LIFE: How to
Survive, How to Thrive, How to Be Fully Alive (PDI Books, paper,
$19.95). ''One must learn to adapt or else, perish.''

I say Maglaya's book is ''remarkable'' not because it is a compendium
of bizarre clip art, well-worn inspirational cliches, practical
advice and religious hoo-ha, all of which it is, but because few
books have come closer to telling me what it means to be an immigrant
in America today. And if Maglaya is to be believed, it means living
in a land of turbo-Darwinism that would shock the likes of Huck Finn
and Augie March, a landscape of hucksters and dreamers, of
work-at-home schemes, fake children's modeling contests and rampant
identity fraud. It means, for the most part, living in Southern
California amid tribes of Cambodian doughnut tycoons and Chinese
laundry empires. It means believing in God (and preferably Jesus
Christ), and making him (them) a part of everything you do.
Religious, resourceful, highly flexible and yet essentially
conservative, the immigrant is the most reliably American of all
Americans, the indispensable citizen, the bedrock of the American
dream with all its tainted pleasures and millennial lunacies.

That said, the face of immigration, or at least the face of
immigration guidebooks, is unrecognizable to me today. When my family
came to the United States from the Soviet Union around 1980, we were
given a slim instructional volume from a resettlement agency. Aimed
squarely at the Soviet immigrant, the book stressed the prodigious
use of deodorant and the need to grin painfully whenever an American
was present (''smell-'n'-smile'' is how I committed this advice to
memory).

As far as Maglaya is concerned, the modern superimmigrant has no need
for such obvious instruction. Instead, he should gain quick
proficiency with MapQuest and Google. Once these are mastered there
are ''very strong arguments'' in favor of learning English, ''apart
from the usual benefit of being able to read road signs.'' With
English and the yield sign under his belt, the immigrant faces the
quandary of finding a good house servant. Watch out, Maglaya warns,
for they don't come cheap in this country. Immigrants who have had
''domestic help to do things for them'' will be ''in for a shock.''
Now that the tempest-tossed refugee has secured the services of a
reputable manservant, it is time to find a suitable activity to
occupy his time. ''Should he go into business? Should he pursue the
arts?'' These are all difficult decisions to make for someone who has
just sneaked across the Rio Grande, but if one finally settles on
entrepreneurship it is often helpful to ''get a professional
spokesperson or a mascot.'' You know, to help out with publicity.

The author, who came to the United States in the 1980's from the
Philippines with a master's degree in communications, leaves us with
a list of recommended books, including Pat Buchanan's ''Death of the
West: How Dying Populations and Immigrant Invasions Imperil Our
Country and Civilization'' and other examples of ''the boat is full''
philosophy. Maglaya's assessment of the way immigrant groups perceive
and treat other immigrant groups is yet another remarkable aspect of
this book. We learn, for example, that ''Jews and Armenians have long
histories of being involved in business in every area around the
world where they settle,'' while Koreans have ''a somewhat hardy
resistance to acculturation.'' Mexicans, despite being abundant in
the author's adopted Southern California, are suspiciously absent
from the list of enterprising immigrant groups. Possibly they have
little of value to impart to Maglaya's ''bright, bushy-tailed eager
beaver of a newcomer.'' The world rightfully looks to America as the
nation most welcoming to immigrants -- and yet what many highly
educated immigrants do not know, or do not care to know, about one
another's struggles could fill a book. This one, for instance.

From: Emil Lazarian | Ararat NewsPress