Sadia Shepard on the Nuances of Immigration and Cultural Identity
Januaray 1, 2018
Your story in this week’s issue, “Foreign-Returned,” is about a Pakistani couple trying to build a successful life in Connecticut. What inspired you to tell their story?
I’m interested in the expectations and ambitions that might propel young people from my family’s ethnic community, the muhajirs, to leave Pakistan for the United States, and what happens after they arrive and must square their aspiration with the reality. I think that Hassan’s ambition is centered on leaving Pakistan in order to participate in the persistent lure of the American Dream, but I don’t think he’s ever stopped long enough to consider whether a life in the United States is really what he wants. I imagine Hassan and Sara as people who have, until this point in their lives, fulfilled most of the expectations of their families and communities: they’ve completed their degrees, married appropriately, secured a coveted finance job, and made the move to the United States. Now, presumably, Hassan will work toward a promotion, Sara will get pregnant, and they will both become respected members of a Pakistani-American community. I am curious about what happens to these characters when their ambitions prove to be difficult to realize.
Deborah Treisman is The New Yorker’s fiction editor and the host of its Fiction Podcast.THE NEW YORKER