One Immigrant’s Confusing Experience

Luma Simms is a Christian Iraqi who settled in California with her refugee family in 1978. According to her story in Plough Quarterly (Winter, 2017), she has pleasant memories of her early years in Iraq with grandparents and family members.

Other memories are not so pleasant. The family suffered discrimination because they were different—they were Christians, a minority.

However, her first memories as a school child in California were not pleasant either. She could not speak English, and local foods, like peanut butter, were strange. As before, her school mates saw her as different and sometimes taunted her with names—“Luma Puma Montezuma.”

She learned to read English and devoured books like Charlotte’s Web. Then the Iranian hostage crisis caused her family to try to hide the fact that they were from the Middle East. “Just say you’re from Greece if anyone asks,” her parents told their children.

Of those times, Luma says, “The internal turmoil of those years has never left me. It has shaped me and informed how I view human identity and immigration.”

She contemplates the devastation in her birth country by two Iraqi wars, invasions led by her adopted country, the United States. She calls on the U.S. to aid in healing and rebuilding the country.

But the U.S. must not, Luma says, attempt to build another people and society, as in Iraq, in the image of itself. “Bringing freedom to a people starts with respecting them as a people in their own right.”

Luma ends her article by describing how she, a daughter of God, has synthesized the two worlds she knows. “I am a daughter whom he brought from the East. It was in the West that he recreated me . . . and gathered me into his kingdom, where all his people become one.”

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