Learning to Love America

Shirley Geok-Lin Lim

Shirley Geok-Lin Lim

Born in Malacca, Malaysia, Shirley Geok-Lin Lim was raised by her father and attended Chinese missionary schools.. Although her first languages were Malay and the Hokkin dialect of Chinese, she was able to read English by the time she was six. Lim moved to the United States after college, and eventually settled permanently in California. Her several books of poetry include Monsoon History: Selected Poems and What the Fortune Teller Didn’t Say, included works about her culture and experiences being a Chinese Woman.

Learning to Love America

because it has no pure products

because the Pacific Ocean sweeps along the coastline

because the water of the ocean is cold

and because land is better than ocean

because I say we rather than they

because I live in California

I have eaten fresh artichokes

and jacaranda bloom in April and May

because my senses have caught up with my body

my breath with the air it swallows

my hunger with my mouth

because I walk barefoot in my house

because I have nursed my son at my breast

because he is a strong American boy

because I have seen his eyes redden when he is asked who he is

because he answers I don’t know

because to have a son is to have a country

because my son will bury me here

because countries are in our blood and we bleed them

because it is late and too late to change my mind

because it is time.

Coming home

As a child born not in the States but in the Eastern Asian country of Vietnam, "Learning to Love America" by Shirley Geok-Lin Lim resonates with me in a special way. A major part of me, such as my family, traditions, and looks are Vietnamese, but growing up in America has shaped who I am.

With our similar background, I understand how all the little things mentioned in the poem has allowed the author to love a country she was not born into. With the beauty of the landscape, and the freedom of the land, her sense of belonging is shown through her identifying as "we" with Americans.

The author's understanding that her home is permanent through her son stayed with me even after I am done reciting the words. As I watched my parents struggle with the language and culture while understanding that the reason they are here is for the opportunities that their hard work will earn me, I realize that to have a child is to have a home. A sense of where you belong is the place that means happiness for your loved ones. For me, the poem puts on paper my feeling that home is where your heart is, home is the place you learn to love and appreciate for the happiness it brings you.

Christelle's Poem Recitation: Learning to love America
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