The Immigrant Advantage

I recently learned there’s something called the immigrant paradox or “the evidence that immigrants, even those from poor, violent lands who live hard lives in the United States, tend to be physically and mentally healthier than the rest of us.” A lot has to do with the customs and traditions that immigrants bring to their adopted land, as journalist Claudia Kolker discovered and decided to put into a book, The Immigrant Advantage, which was just published.

As an immigrant myself, just reading the description of the book was enough to get me interested in it. As we’ve written about in the past, traditions are one of the best ways to preserve our culture, but who would’ve known they make for a better life too. While Kolker writes about some Latino traditions, I really like that she also enlightened me about other people’s customs from Vietnam to Jamaica. Some of it sounded kind of familiar – as in the multigenerational households – while a lot of it was completely new.

After I finished with the introduction (in which Kolker describes growing up Jewish and Mexican in the Maryland suburbs), I was immediately drawn to the chapter on the Mexican cuarentena – a maternity leave of sorts that pretty much doesn’t allow a woman to do anything for forty days after the baby is born. While the concept was not new to me, I just wanted to learn the history behind it. I did and a lot more because Kolker not only explains the roots of the traditions she writes about, but also tells interesting stories about the people that practice them.

I didn’t enjoy a full-blown cuarentena when I had Vanessa, but after reading that chapter, I realized I was pretty darn close to it.

One of the biggest reasons we moved to Denver from Miami was that I was pregnant with my first child and I didn’t want my husband and I to have to raise her on our own. I wanted to be able to rely on my tight-knit family in the good times and the bad. I wanted Vanessa to be as close as possible to her roots.

As the majority of people in this country; however, my mom and my sister are working women. So when the time came for me to give birth, I relied on the help of my mother-in-law to see me through my first few weeks as a first time mom. And I will never regret it.

Vanessa’s birth story has all the elements birth stories can have. From pushing for hours without a single drop of drugs to an unwanted but necessary C-section so she could be born. I know for a fact that one of the biggest reasons I was able to recover from all that was because I had my mother-in-law by my side.

Although those first few days after Vanessa was born seem like a blur, I do remember not doing much expect taking care of her and trying to figure out the breastfeeding thing. For weeks after she was born, I never had to worry about cooking and cleaning and for that I will be forever grateful to my suegra.

This post is an official tour stop of The Immigrant Advantage Book Tour.

Monday, October 24, 2011: Juan of Words 

Tuesday, October 25, 2011: Chicano Soul 

Wednesday, October 26, 2011: SpanglishBaby

Thursday, October 27, 2011: Latinaish

Friday, October 28, 2011: TikiTiki Blog 

Tuesday, November 1, 2011: Voto Latino

Wednesday, November 2, 2011: Motherhood in Mexico

Thursday, November 3, 2011: Atzlan Reads

Friday, November 4, 2011: Multicultural Familia

About the author of the book:

Claudia Kolker has reported extensively from Mexico and Central America, as well as the Caribbean, Japan, India and Pakistan. A former Los Angeles Times bureau chief and member of the Houston Chronicle editorial board, she has also written for The Economist, The Washington PostThe Boston GlobeO: The Oprah MagazineSlate, and Salon. She lives in Houston with her family.  For The Immigrant Advantage, Kolker visited Korean and Chinese afterschools, West Indian multigenerational households in New Jersey, and Chicago’s “Little Village,” among others.


This giveaway is now closed. Congratulations to the winner: Jessica !

We’re giving away one copy of The Immigrant Advantage to one lucky winner.

To enter, just leave a comment telling us if you follow any traditions or customs, such as the cuarentena.

That’s all you have to do to enter this giveaway. If you want to up your chances at winning, then this is how you can get additional entries (only after you’ve completed the step above):

**Please leave a separate comment for each so we can count them and avoid mistakes.

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This giveaway ends Sunday, Oct. 30 at midnight PST and is open to everyone over 18 years of age. Check out the Giveaway Rules.

Disclosure: We received a sample to review the product. All opinions are our own.

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