Sometimes, I wonder if we were better listeners before we came to the United States. When we first arrived in 1990, my untainted ears still longed for the steadiness of a storyteller’s tone. In the evenings when mothers called their kids home for dinner and crickets began their soothing songs, my siblings and I gathered around Dad to hear sweeping tales of monsters and heroes and magic in a tradition that had been practiced long before a book, a TV or a tablet became the norm.
“The girl in the red coat went to the store and bought some apples with five dollars.”
As the words left my mouth, the need to roll my eyes was so fierce, I swear my body shook with it. The woman on the other side of the table didn’t even bother to look up as she wrote my words down on a piece of paper. A tape recorder rolled on and on and on next to her elbow.
The story didn’t end there. I’m pretty sure the girl in the red coat did something with those apples, but I can’t remember. I do, however, remember the anguish I felt at being the only student called out of class to be tested in the English language. I was a junior in high school and hadn’t been in an English language development class since elementary school. This felt like someone decided to wage war on my identity, and it wasn’t the first time.