June marks Immigrant Heritage Month — and people across the country are sharing their American stories. Whether you've recently embarked on your first day as an American or want to share how your ancestors came to arrive here, we want to hear from you. Add your voice to the conversation today.
As a kid growing up in Texarkana, Texas, I often tried to pretend I was not an immigrant. I did not even know I was doing it really. Like many other kids, I just wanted to fit in and be a part of a girl scout troop, or a cheerleader, or sleep over at a friend’s house. All these pieces of American culture were foreign to my parents. Aside from differing practices and norms, my family didn’t necessarily talk about being immigrants. We were obviously Pakistani—that was one of the many things about us that stood out in our small town. But, that we were “immigrants” or how we came to be in the United States—those were things that went unspoken, even inside our home. I did not actually know the full story of how my family came to America until much later in life.
Growing up, my father used to sell toys on the street in his neighborhood in Lahore. He was the eldest of eight, struggling to make ends meet, and selling toys after school was one of the ways he helped out. He would go to school every morning, and afterwards, he would sell four or five toys on the side of the road—as many as he could carry in his arms. If he sold one, he came home with one rupee. Today that’s about a penny, but it was worth a little more back then. And my grandmother, so happy for the extra rupee and grateful for her son’s work, kissed that bill when he handed it to her.