Notes on Assimilation

My cousin in a suburban Florida park

**For more information on the inspiration of this piece please visit the prompt**


The day after Thanksgiving, my cousin and I sat in front of her mother’s Florida home talking about our infatuations with white boys. I looked at her, my eyes (I imagine) a mix of sadness and amusement, and she said, “I know, it’s a fool’s dream.” Her eyes were hopeful, in spite of herself. I decided I would write a story about young African girls who liked young American boys, and title it “A Fool’s Dream.”


That evening, we took turns riding a bicycle around the palm-tree ridden suburb and I finally understood. This was the dream. This riding a bicycle (ultimate act of suburban bliss) and being massaged by evening breeze whilst surrounded by ordinary folk in ordinary houses (American folk in American houses), was it. The white boys were only a placeholder for what I actually wanted. This country, this culture, the suburbs.


There is a Disney Channel movie titled “Stuck in the Suburbs” that I don’t remember being very remarkable, but still love because of that title. To be stuck in the suburbs, how fantastic, how absolutely delicious. When I was younger, my sisters and I spent many of our summers in Georgia and hands down the best part, even more than visiting the Macon Library and compiling lists of new words every day, was Disney Channel. We had Nickelodeon and Cartoon Network in Nigeria but we didn’t have Disney. When it eventually arrived, I was hurt. Now all my friends had another piece of my America.


During my penultimate year at boarding school, I started practicing my American accent. In the privacy of my room, I would pick up the prayer book my mother gave me and read the prayers out loud in the best Disney Channel lilt I could muster. Eventually the rolling r’s and sing-song syllables seeped into my public voice, and whenever I read aloud in class, my friends teased. I pretended to be hurt, but I reveled in their recognition of my American-ness.


When people ask me where I’m from, I smile sadly and say, “I grew up in Nigeria.” I’d like to say something clever like, “I’m a nomad,” but it doesn’t quite matter that I was born in New York or spent summers in Georgia; my entire frame of reference (despite these clumsy few years in California) is that old country.


I have perfected the American accent now. It was quite easy.


It is a Californian accent by way of Camarillo, inherited from my roommate freshman year. It is bland and soprano. Once I was Skyping a friend and he told me to demonstrate it for him. I read a passage from my textbook on American Popular Music. “Never do that again,” he said after. It was too white. He’d been hoping for a black American accent, or at least something more colorful like a New England drawl. Alas, I too wish it were more colorful.


During my second year at boarding school, my sister had marveled at my transformation. She said I’d really become the prototype. The “Olashore” girl. She’d meant it as an insult, but I wasn’t miffed. I liked being so adaptable.


I have found that there is no such all-encompassing moniker as “American,” so nothing really to aspire to. There is Southern, black, hipster, “Murrican,” white-girl, and so on, but no coherent culture into which I can assimilate. There is no “American” girl. Though I now doubt that I’d particularly love being one.


I have grown tired of this incoherent country. I have grown tired of white boys.

Post submitted by Kanyin


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