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Into the maelstrom of unprecedented contemporary debates about immigrants in the United States, A Beginner’s Guide to America gives us a portrait of what the new immigrant experience in America is really like.
Written as a “guide” for the newly arrived, and providing “practical information and advice,” Roya Hakakian, an immigrant herself, reveals what those who settle here love about the country, what they miss about their homes, the cruelty of some Americans, and the unceasing generosity of others. She captures the texture of life in a new place in all its complexity, laying bare both its beauty and its darkness as she discusses race, sex, love, death, consumerism, and what it is like to be from a country that is in America’s crosshairs.
Her tenderly perceptive and surprisingly humorous account invites us to see ourselves as we appear to others, making it possible for us to rediscover our many American gifts through the perspective of the outsider. In shattering myths and embracing painful contradictions that are unique to this place, A Beginner’s Guide to America is Hakakian’s candid love letter to America.
Roya Hakakian is the author of A Beginner’s Guide to America, Assassins of the Turquoise Palace, and Journey from the Land of No, and has published two collections of poetry in Persian. Her essays have appeared in The New York Times and The Wall Street Journal, and on NPR’s All Things Considered. She has collaborated on programming for leading journalism units in network television, including 60 Minutes. She is the recipient of a Guggenheim Fellowship, and served on the editorial board of World Affairs. Since 2015, she has taught at THREAD, a writing workshop at Yale, and is a fellow at the Davenport College at Yale. She lives in Connecticut.
Michelle Hackman is a reporter in The Wall Street Journal's Washington bureau, where she covers immigration policy and the Department of Homeland Security. Previously, she wrote about health and education policy. Michelle first joined the Journal in 2016 and is a graduate of Yale University.