Conditional Citizens by Laila Lalami
What’s it about?
Laila Lalami is a Moroccan immigrant and a citizen of the United States. It has been nearly twenty years since she took her oath of citizenship, and yet she makes the case that she is a conditional citizen of this country. She goes on to outline the many ways this country makes some of its' citizens less than others.
What did it make me think about?
This was a thought provoking book that points out the many ways America falls short. How ethnicity, gender, and skin color affect so many aspects of an American citizen's life. How conflicted we are as a nation about these same issues. When talking of immigration Lalami says, "The pendulum continues to swing between hope and fear. Year after year, multiculturalists hail immigration as the life-blood of the nation, while nativists portray immigrants as the gravest threat to it."
Should I read it?
My favorite books make me think and feel. This was a thoughtful book- but it was more intellectual than visceral. The author points out real issues and gives examples- but some of the individual examples did not make my heart pound. For example, on Lalami's first trip out of the country after becoming a citizen she and her husband have an unprofessional encounter with the border agent. "When we walked up to the counter, the border agent examined both of our passports, then turned to my husband. 'So', he said, his face breaking into a conspiratorial smile, 'how many camels did you have to trade for her?' " Totally offensive and uncalled for- but not heart wrenching? OK- so at this point, early in the book, I knew I needed to set aside my own experiences and try to really hear Ms. Lalami. The author hits the mark on many of her observations, and I learned a lot. I would have loved to have seen some examples of nations that are doing it right. Does this utopia exist in this world? How do we get there? I guess the first step is to read books such as this so we see the United States through other eyes.
"Racism is a system that gives members of the dominant group both immediate and generational benefits that are not accessible to members of the non-dominant group."
If you liked this try-
Homeland Elegies by Ayad Akhtar
The Refugees by Viet Thanh Nguyen
There There by Tommy Orange
Apeirogon by Colum McCann
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― Charles William Eliot
3 to 4- I found some aspect of this book redeeming but would not recommend it.
5 to 6- I really enjoyed something about this book (characters, plot, meaning etc.) but it was uneven. Some aspects were stronger than others.
7 to 8- It was a good book. I liked lots of aspects of this book. I would recommend it.
9 to 10- I was sorry to turn the last page. I highly recommend this book!