American Identity

The American Identity of an Immigrant



American Sunset On Fire by James BO Insogna


What does it mean to be an American? As someone who, without an option, was brought to America at the young age of four, this was something I’ve always been confused about. I remember every statewide exam that took place that asked me whether I was a U.S. citizen. Depending on my mood, I had given various answers. My choice ultimately came down to whether I felt a strong urge to assert my heritage, or immerse myself in the culture and “choose” to be American. Of course, later I found out the difference between being a citizen and being an American, and yet that conflict of identities that I had as a kid helped me realize that being an American isn’t some formal procedure that everyone has to go through in order to have the full benefits of residing within the states.

Being American, at least to me personally, is searching through the wilderness of the skyscraper trees, the asphalt rivers that divide the cement paved roads,  and creating an identity of not just yourself, but also of the wilderness all around, just like how the first immigrants that came into America came to create a civilization from the wilderness around them. In creating this brand new civilization, as Nash so perfectly writes, “they sought to give that civilization identity and meaning”.

Nash later goes on to state that “Wildnis has a twofold emotional tone. On one hand it is inhospitable, alien, mysterious and threatening; on the other, beautiful, friendly, and capable of elevating and delighting the beholder.” This perpetual truth resounded through the ages and still continues to echo in today’s society. There will always be doubt and fear in the back of the minds of the immigrants that come to America searching for a better life. However, to immerse yourself into the wilderness of a foreign land, merging your identity and the environment together to form something greater, an elevation if you will, should ultimately be what being an American must mean.

So in this sense, yes, I am an American, and I’m proud to be one too.


Some further readings on the opinions of people of all ages on what it means to be an American include: (Refer to the comments section)


Text used:

Nash, Roderick. Wilderness and the American Mind. New Haven: Yale UP, 1973. Print.


8 thoughts on “The American Identity of an Immigrant

  1. I understand what its like to look at the boxes on state forms, and not really being sure of what you identify at the moment. Its cool how you related Nash’s description of America to how immigrants feel when they travel to America. As someone with immigrant parents, they tell me how they were scared of leaving everything behind, but looked forward to establishing a new home here. That fear of not knowing your environment, and the looks immigrants received when they walked on the streets. Its cool that you were able to discover your identity, its hard not knowing what to classify or label yourself sometimes, because we often think its permanent, but we are always learning new ways to identify who we are.

    Liked by 2 people

  2. I think it’s really interesting that you highlighted being an American and being a citizen as being different concepts! I didn’t realize it before, but I’ve always seemed to put the two together and treat them as if they are the same thing, or mean the same thing. Treating them differently, I guess I would say citizenship is just the paperwork aspect, and being an “American” is more of the social or cultural aspect. However, then I wonder when you are asked if you are an American, which one is worth more? Which one you would go to, to answer with.

    Liked by 2 people

  3. I really enjoyed this post. The way you wrote about being confused at the differences of what it means to be a citizen and what it means to be American had me considering the differences and what citizenship really represents. If you are a citizen of the United States then you’re legally allowed to be there but that doesn’t immerse you into the culture and make you American. I also enjoyed the quote you used discussing how the colonists wanted to give the wilderness identity. I never really saw it as a positive, but as a negative in the sense of destroying the environment and exploiting it. Overall great post. I was interesting to read.

    Liked by 2 people

  4. I appreciate that you expressed the instability of a hyphenated identity from the eyes of a child rather than an adult (the portion about statewide exams). It really illuminated how fickle a thing identity is, especially to someone who is growing and unaware of the importance placed on it. As an Asian-American, I always felt a bit irked at those questions on any questionnaire. When my elder sister was quite young, she was confused with what those questions were asking exactly and once marked herself as “Asian Pacific” and another time as “Pacific Islanders” (we are Indian-Americans). I laughed a lot when she had told me of those errors, but it really shows that most of us are not equipped to answer such a question. This prompt was very hard for me to answer because I feel that I don’t have a well-developed understanding of what constitutes as being “American”, such an obscure concept it is. You do a good job at reconciling that issue with your personal definition, “Being American… is searching through the wilderness of the skyscraper trees, the asphalt rivers that divide the cement paved roads, and creating an identity of not just yourself, but also of the wilderness all around, just like how the first immigrants that came into America came to create a civilization from the wilderness around them.” I think this is just such a lovely way to phrase the immigrant experience and a great way to link your personal views to the class readings. Great job!

    Liked by 2 people

  5. I found your blog very accurate in regards to what it means to be an American. I like your remark of what it means to you personally to be an American. You mentioned the search trough the wilderness to create an identity, of not just yourself, but also of the wilderness all around. I take your remark, as perhaps, before we call ourselves an American, we have to search trough the American culture and the expectations in American society to find an American identity, since we are all truly immigrants. I certainly agree with idea that America is the land of opportunity for a better life.

    Liked by 2 people

  6. Yes! I was hoping someone posted a blog like this. Thank you for sharing your experience and defining what it means to be American. I was born in The United States. My dad is African-American and my mom is Puerto Rican but born in America as well. I agree with your argument and I was so curious to read about the thoughts of someone who was not born here. You made powerful assertions and gave so much beautiful imagery that tied everything altogether. You have compelled me to further think about areas of “wilderness” that are within areas that are seen as structured or organized.

    Liked by 2 people

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )


Connecting to %s