2014.04.21 Overcoming the accent

My favorite radio station is National Public Radio, NPR, locally distributed by KQED. And one of my favorite shows is Fresh Air with Terry Gross. She has this "old quality" technique that her interviews are about the person she has visiting, not about her.

Today, April 21st, she had the stand-up comedian Hari Kondabolu visiting. You can read part of and hear the whole interview here.

Naturally, interviewing a comedian, the discussion had its comic moments. As Hari started out as an immigrant organizer, his also had a range of insights. But what made me write about it was some comments late in the interview where Hari said that he used to do stand up in high school, making rave reviews by making fun of the way his Indian father talked. He had stopped doing that.

"It is hard having an accent in this country and you are judged based on it. I can imagine that it must be hard for my folks, that they had to work twice as hard to communicate... My father should be judged based on the content of his words and actions and not by the accent that comes with it..."

Thus speaks a very aware Third Culture Kid. He further recalled how his mother conjured up "substitute grandparents" for him and his brother because she wanted them to be comfortable around older people and talked about other adjustments she had to make in her child raring compared to what she was used to back in India.

I have read many immigrant memoirs and many TCK's have hilarious accounts of their parents' hardships it the new culture. I am sure my children can come up with a litany of stupidities involving their parents' ignorance. And they most certainly could mock my Danish accent that is so hard to get rid of.

Rarely have I read/heard of these hardships described with so much affection - and reflection - as in this interview.