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Oral History Interview with Kanwal Rahman, July 15, 1999. Interview K-0817. Southern Oral History Program Collection (#4007).
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  • Abstract
    Kanwal Rahman left Bangladesh for the United States in 1991, looking forward to earning a public health degree from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. The second thoughts she had as soon as she got on the plane were compounded by her workload; feeling alone and overworked, she wanted at once to return home. She stayed on, however, determined to prove her worth and hopeful that she might use her success to benefit her home country. Eight years later, at the time of this interview, Rahman has found her niche, and some good friends, in the Chapel Hill area. But she has not lost that sense of connection with Bangladesh, and feels acutely the sense of separation from her family there. In this interview, she reflects on her experience and her efforts at adjustment. One of the most difficult adjustments to make was embracing the American ethic of independence, the opposite of the interdependent, even dependent, posture she learned as one of five daughters of a very successful father. In making this adjustment, Rahman uncovered hidden strengths, but concedes, too, that she worries for her future as a single Asian woman in America. This concern dramatizes her enduring connection to Bangladeshi culture and the way in which assimilation challenges the core of at least one immigrant's sense of self.
    Excerpts
  • Deciding to emigrate to the United States and struggling upon arrival
  • Interacting more with Americans than fellow Bangladeshis
  • Americans and Bangladeshis place different values on independence and interdependence
  • Distance from family is hard for an immigrant
  • A Bangladeshi must learn American-style independence
  • Finding strength in a new cultural environment
  • A liberated woman maintains her belief in a patriarchal family structure
  • Pride in her homeland
  • A university community welcomes immigrants
  • Immigrants' connections to their home countries endures
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  • Finding aid to the Southern Oral History Program Collection
  • Database of all Southern Oral History Program Collection interviews
  • The Southern Oral History Program transcripts presented here on Documenting the American South undergo an editorial process to remove transcription errors. Texts may differ from the original transcripts held by the Southern Historical Collection.

    Funding from the Institute for Museum and Library Services supported the electronic publication of this title.