Opinion: Why ‘Make Your Home Among Strangers’ Boosts Cultural Perspective

Jennine Capó Crucet’s “Make Your Home Among Strangers” is displayed and available for purchase at the Albion College Bookstore, located on the first floor in the Kellogg Center. Crucet is the winner of the International Latino Book Award for Best Latino-themed Fiction and a New York Times Book Review Editor's Choice. The Symposium Keynote Address will be presented by Jennine Capó Crucet at 7 p.m. on Thursday, April 18, in Goodrich Chapel. (Picture by Irene Corona Avila.)

Every first-year Albion College student is required to read a common experience book to fulfill a requirement of their liberal arts education. For the second year, Jennine Capó Crucet’s “Make Your Home Among Strangers” was selected to be the Richard M. Smith Common Reading Experience book.

Crucet will be speaking at Albion’s Elkin R. Issac Symposium at 7 p.m. at Goodrich Chapel on Thursday, April 18.

The story follows Lix Ramirez, who must learn to balance her familial and educational expectations as a first-generation college student.

Of course, as a first-generation, Hispanic and out-of-state first-year, I will be attending Crucet’s lecture, and I hope others will too.

Albion aims to be a safe and culturally inclusive institution, and it will continue to grow with a strong education focused on diversity. But the student body also has to put in effort to learn diversity by attending events such as the recent unity demonstration and Crucet’s lecture. These efforts will create an atmosphere of cultural acceptance and safety.

Now, there are first-year students who chose not to read Crucet’s book because they thought there would not receive any satisfaction from reading. Those who read and have read “Make Your Home Among Strangers” may have trouble sympathizing with the Cuban-American, first-generation protagonist, Liz.

We hear “put yourself in someone else’s shoes” as a reminder to be open-minded, but how much of that can we remember in order to prevent offensive, discriminatory actions?

“Make Your Home Among Strangers” depicts the challenges I have faced transitioning to college, and I know in some way, a first-year, disregarding race and ethnicity, can also relate to it. We can all sympathize with the transition of being a dependent high school student to a independent college student in an environment out of our norm.

Failing to overlook the surface of Liz’s Cuban perspective creates a division incapable of being sympathetic. First-years can relate to the emotional journey Liz experienced. She seesaws between the Lizeth in Miami and the Liz at her university, similarly to a young college student leaving their home and way of life. New students have the common experience of questioning their own selves as they mold into independent people.

We are raised in a home where we can be as comfortable as we can even if we haven’t found ourselves yet. We can make jokes with our childhood friends, grab a coffee from our favorite local coffee shop and create memories with our beloved family.

We are excited to start the pivotal moment of life that is college, as we know it’ll bring us more freedom and new adventures, but we don’t seem to think how it will impact us mentally. Though some students may have the advantage of consulting a family member who has experienced the roller coaster journey of college, some of us don’t.

First-generation students may have marked their family crest simply by graduating high school and being accepted into college, but we don’t have the help to prepare for this life-changing moment.

We are like sea turtles emerging from their nests, not heading into the ocean but following the lights into an overwhelming, crowded, confusing city.

We don’t know where to start and we don’t know which questions to ask and who to ask. Some of us are lucky enough to have learned to step out of our comfort zones because we had to growing up with parents unfamiliar with the American culture.

Our families become dependent on us because we know about societal norms and how to prosper in a unfamiliar environment. So why is it hard for first-generation students who helped their family in an unfamiliar space adjust to a college environment? We are filled with worry and guilt of “abandoning” our families, leaving them behind knowing they need our help.

We are criticized for rebelling against traditional norms. I grew up with a Mexican one, where it is not normal for the daughter to leave home at 18 but instead normal to take on the responsibility of a housewife. I love my Mexican culture and I try to embrace it every way I can, but there are some traditions I don’t agree on.

We are in this mental distraught when we are in heading to college: the distraught \of following the American Dream and staying with our family. That’s what we believe our parents sacrificed for us: to leave their life behind to provide us with a first-class education.

Crucet displays the mental challenges a first-generation student encounters. To be in a liberal arts college requiring all students to read her book makes me feel more inclusive.

Although I believe “Make Your Home Among Strangers” can be dramatic during certain scenes, I liked it. It reminded me of the “novelas,” or soap operas, I watched with my mother.

I think drama is needed, anyways. The book’s Cuban perspective and tensions serves to provide the untold stories of the minority student population, introducing cultural perspective.

About Irene Corona Avila 8 Articles
Irene is a first-year student and a prideful Georgia Peach from Atlanta. Adjusting to a new environment, Irene seeks for new adventures and perspectives, so if you see her around, don't be afraid to say hi! She is a biochemistry major with a concentration in neuroscience with the aspiration to become a medical researcher and neurosurgeon. But most importantly, she is driven by changing the world one person at a time. She is a strong believer that people aren't projects but humans.

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