People are recognized based on different aspects of their personality such as culture, language, religion, behavior and education. However, in most cases identities founded on these aspects may be deceiving. For instance, a person may opt to assume an identity that guarantees them a comfortable and cordial existence in a given society. This is the typical scenario that befalls both Dumas and Maalouf; who are two female immigrant writers entangled in a social dilemma of whether to stick to their original cultural identity or embrace a new identity in order to fit in society. Although the two have used their respective learnt languages to emphasize the importance of identity, there are significant differences in how they define identity in terms of their personal experiences and perception towards the society as a unit.
Dumas and Maalouf are both immigrants whose first languages are totally different from their countries of migration. Dumas moved from Iran at the age of seven to America while Maalouf moved from Lebanon aged twenty-two to France. In both cases, the two ladies had to learn different languages. Dumas, who initially spoke Farsi learnt English while Maalouf had to learn French besides her native Arabic.
Another similarity between the two writers is that they both use their learnt languages in explaining their life events. Dumas uses English to elaborate her plight and experiences at the hands of Native Americans while Dumas vividly elaborates her experience with the French. Perhaps they intentionally do so in order to reach out to the Native American and French society.
The other similarity between Dumas and Maalouf is their emphasis on the importance of identity and subsequent effects of adopting a new identity. Dumas narrates how her family names which had well intended meanings in Farsi became a source of laughter and embarrassment when translated into English or when people opted for a homophone since they could not correctly pronounce her names. On the other hand, Maalouf recalls how she constantly found herself in a dilemma when asked to explain her identity since it is an indirect question prompting her to choose between Lebanon and France.
The two authors hold different definitions of identity. Maalouf argues that both Lebanon and France form her identity (Maalouf, 2013). She says that although Lebanon is the country of her ancestors, she can no longer be a foreigner in France. More so, when asked whether she is French or Lebanese, her answer is always “ Both”.
On the contrary, Dumas says America is a foreign country and Iran is the country of her Identity and she only opts to embrace American culture as the last option. For instance, when she can no longer withstand people laughing at her name she adds “ Julie” which is an American name to her Farsi name (Dumas, 2013). She also does the same when no one is willing to employ her on grounds of her Iranian background. However, she is quick to denounce the American name and retain her initial Farsi name once she is married. Therefore, according to Dumas a person cannot have dual identity since they must always retain their native identity (Zolberg, 2006).
Dumas and Maalouf go through different experiences while in their adopted countries. According to Maalouf, one’s identity comprises of his language, artistic taste, beliefs and lifestyle (Maalouf, 2013). Thus, having this as the fundamental aspects of identity she quickly adapts in France and finds a friendly and cordial existence in the country. She argues that identity is vast and not confined to a single issue like language and culture. She bears in mind that since historical times France and Lebanon enjoyed good relations hence immigrants from either country should have a sense of belonging to both countries.
Dumas and her family members find it hard to fit in the American society. Americans, who cannot pronounce Farsi names, translate the names with comic attachments. Ferooz is pronounced “ Fritzy”; Farshid pronounced “ Fartshit” and Arash is understood to be “ A rash” by the Americans. This becomes a source of embarrassment and laughter to Dumas and her family (Dumas, 2013). At some point, she is forced to obtain an American name to ward off this laughter and embarrassment. She also finds it hard to freely interact with both American and Iranian friends as she speaks fluent English without an accent and so she is thought to be an American. However, her friends from Iran know her as an Iranian and this makes her to be against the American culture. In the long run she dumps her American boyfriend for lacking a sense of belonging and emotional attachments.
In conclusion, all immigrants face various challenges in the process of integrating into a new social setting. One such challenge is self-identity. Immigrants tend to identify themselves depending on the reception they receive as well as the general integration into the new culture. In cases where they face alienation of any kind, they may opt to stick to their original cultures.
Dumas, F. (2013). The “ F Word”. Web.
Maalouf, A. (2013). Deadly Identites. Web.
Zolberg, A. (2006). A Nation by Design: Immigration Policy in the Fashioning of America. Boston: Harvard University Press. Web.