An Immigrant Thanksgiving

There was that one Thanksgiving I spent with a Catholic college friend whose family lived around the way. She came from a clan that’d been in the Midwest for a few generations and very much identified with that Minnesota Nice thing I found mostly fake. Everyone was super nice. Her father asked me about home. I remember saying there weren’t that many convents in Johannesburg. Even though I’d already done a stint at a Catholic, nun-led school in Jozzie. The dad picked up this absence of women in habits down in Africa. He didn’t have to speak his judgment—I could feel it. Even though I didn’t believe in his god. 

Even though he was extra nice. 😛

And then there was that Thanksgiving I spent with a hodgepodge group of international student misfits. We were all caught in limbo, between places like Accra and Jozzie and Sarajevo and Philadelphia and New York. Home being too far away and this new home being too strange to really make out all the rituals. The Ghanain dude made a delicious jollof rice and some spicy invention that seemed like biryani with plenty boiled eggs and bay leafs and chicken. Gurrrrl—when I tell you we feasted! I didn’t even pick up dude’s flirting cues. I just wanted more of that dish that had nothing to do with Turkey. 

And then came accepting America as a kind of home. Years after college. Deep into adulthood. And fall and family gathering and making meaning of something new. 

Of course it came with conflict, knowing why Thanksgiving made my black and indigenous friends from college days and beyond so uneasy. 

There’s a casual acceptance of colonial violence that’s hard to swallow. 

There’s also the thing about Thanksgiving being the least commercial holiday in this country. A single day that seems to center around gathering and serving love around the table. What do you do with that? Throw it all out?

As an immigrant, I want to remake what’s broken. I’ll be skipping the dry turkey 😛 and serving my mother’s flawless mutton curry and le dombolo—steamed bread—instead. I’ll try my hand at African-American pumpkin pie, cause that shit is banging!

And I’ll be honoring this land. Thanking my Native American hosts for having me as a guest. 

We can do hard things. Like gathering around joy and family AND facing down a hard history with clear eyes. 

Love to you and whoever you call family around the table today,