THE LAND OF OPPORTUNITY: COVETING THE GREEN CARD

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Coveting the Dream, by Jacintha Griffith (Katamja Press, Mckinney, Texas, 2012, 153 pages).

Book Review by Dennis Moore

December 12, 2015 (San Diego’s East County) - In this time of heightened awareness in immigration reform, highlighted by Immigrants from Mexico and our country’s reluctance to allow into the country Syrian immigrants, Jacintha Griffith has written a fictional account of what it must be like for immigrants pursuing the American Dream, Coveting the Dream. Herself an immigrant, originally from the island of Grenada in the West Indies, this is her first novel – which from its design and literary craftsmanship many more will follow.

The door to the Land of Opportunity slammed poignantly when a U.S. consulate in Belize denied Serena an entry visa. Fueled by a desperate desire to reunite with her boyfriend, Nick, who yearned for the American Dream, she embarks on a dangerous journey, risking her life and trusting underground smugglers to sneak her in through the back door. She lands in Brooklyn, to find Nick, where the Dream becomes a nightmare and opportunities become disappointments.

The story chronicles the journey of a naïve 20 year old woman from Belize, who is determined to create her own American Dream after the devastating realization that Nick has married someone else. Belize has actually been described as; “With one foot planted in the Central American jungles and the other dipped in the Caribbean Sea, Belize combines the best of both worlds.” It makes one wonder why Serena would want to leave this tropical paradise in the first place. She navigates several avenues to obtain the coveted green card, including a fraudulent attempt which leads to her arrest and detention by the Immigration and Naturalization Service (INS). Faced with deportation and the reality that the dream is swiftly slipping out of reach, Serena makes a desperate attempt to keep it in sight. Suddenly, her life takes on a new significance, with the help of a compassionate stranger.

And speaking of this coveted “green card”, the author has a poignant comment in her book that frames her story, as she states: “I’m beginning to see the green card as a double-edged sword. People risk their lives, families are separated, relationships are destroyed, and otherwise honest people lie, cheat and suffer humiliation for the sake of it…To be in this land of opportunity comes with a very high price.”

Griffith is a practicing pediatric occupational therapist in her life beyond this book, but actually finds a way to weave this background into her fictional story, which adds a bit of authenticity to it.

Although fictional, Griffith’s Coveting the Dream is timely and this well-written and emotional book will resonate with readers on a number of levels. A particular passage in this first time author’s book resonated with me, as she states: “As Serena looked at the baby and Marie she thought, some people paid a high price for the privilege of living in this land of opportunity, and she became overwhelmed with sadness as she realized that Marie was another causality of the desperate desire for a green card.” The author would describe many such causalities in this book.

Perhaps the most fitting and moving passage in this book is an excerpt from Andrae Crouch’s song Through it All, which states: “I’ve had many tears and sorrows, I’ve had questions for tomorrow, there’ve been times I didn’t know right from wrong, but in every situation, God gave blessed consolation that my trials come to only make me strong. Through it all, through it all, I’ve learned to trust in Jesus, I’ve learned to trust in God: Through it all, through it all, I’ve learned to depend upon His word. I’ve been to lots of places, and I’ve seen a lot of faces, there’ve been times I felt so all alone; But in my lonely hours, yes, those precious lonely hours, Jesus let me know that I was his own. I thank God for the mountains, and I thank him for the valleys, I thank him for the storms He brought me through, for if I’d never had a problem, I wouldn’t know that he could solve them, I’d never know what faith in God could do.”

Although this song was for Serena as told in the book, it could very well have been a personal reflection of the author, and it certainly resonates with me.  

From this book, Coveting the Dream, and my own research, I have learned of the significance of a “K-1” visa, which allowed Tashfeen Malik to enter the U.S. as a Pakistani citizen and get married within 90 days of her arrival to Syed Farook – and the two of them would be responsible for the deaths and carnage of 14 innocent people in nearby San Bernardino, approximately 60 miles southeast of me.

There are many facets to this overall story, but this book has a tremendous and fairytale ending for Serena, as she returns home from America to Belize, that readers must get through to truly appreciate Griffith’s story. Griffith has outdone herself!

Dennis Moore is the Associate Editor of the East County Magazine in San Diego and the book review editor of SDWriteway, an online newsletter for writers in San Diego that has partnered with the East County Magazine, as well as a freelance contributor to EURweb based out of Los Angeles. He is also the author of a book about Chicago politics; “The City That Works: Power, Politics, and Corruption in Chicago.” Mr. Moore can be contacted at contractsagency@gmail.com or you can follow him on Twitter at: @DennisMoore8


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Comments

The author's words have a strong ring of truth.

Having interviewed quite a few immigrants, refugees and asylum seekers,  the ordeals the author describes are all things I've heard others talk about going through.  Driven by desperation in most cases to escape gangs, abuse or abject poverty, they risk their lives and entrust smugglers for their only hope of a better live.  Some are robbed or raped along they way.  They may endure extreme conditions en route here and some lose their lives. Some may lose their ID  or have it taken from them, for instance Christian refugees in the Middle East are told it is too dangerous to be carrying ID that shows their faith because ISIS will murder them if they are stopped.  So they may be forced or duped into getting false IDs, only to be imprisoned and usually deported for doing so.  Even those with genuine IDs arrive at our border to find that instead of asylum, they are greeting with six months or more in immigration prisons run by private prison corporations, long waits for asylum hearings, and the odds are stacked against them in court. Families may be separated, kids terrified. Surely there must be a more humane way to treat fellow human beings awaiting decisions, while understanding the need for vetting to keep terrorists out.  But the vast majority are fleeing terror or other horrific conditions in their homelands. 

Immigration whether legal or illegal is a very hot button topic

Coveting the Dream, by author Jacintha Griffith is a timely accident or divinely orchestrated, especially since this topic is on the forefront of people's minds and such a hot topic issue in the news and on the campaign trails. First off, I'm glad to be an American citizen. I've done enough traveling in foreign countries, both European and third world countries, to know and appreciate how blessed we are as citizens of the United States of America; regardless of how we got here. Unless you've traveled internationally, you really don't fully appreciate the blessings and prosperity, as Americans, we take for granted. Dennis's review points out some of the perils, this author encountered when coming to this country illegally, looking for the American dream. I can testify to knowing or having heard of legal immigrants who've faced some extra-ordinary challenges in settling in an unfamiliar country of origin. My heart goes out to the refugees who are trying to make it out of their war torn countries, but at the same time, given the state of our culture and America being hated by so many foreign nationals, we need to be very, very, very careful as to who we let into our borders. For those immigrants that are here and are using their gifts, talents and skills to make our country better; we're blessed to have you; but for the "abjects" who want to steal, kill or destroy us; they should be deported back to their homeland. I believe the same should happen to Americans who are in foreign countries and are a nuisance to that culture. Deportation should work both ways. I do hope this author's story will encourage someone and keep them from making some of the same mistakes that she experienced. Dorothy Bracy Alston, author of How to Whup the Devil: A Spiritual Weapons' Guide.

"Coveting the Dream"

Thank you for your comments Dorothy, but the review and the book is about a fictional character (Serena) in the overall fictional story, and the author (Jacintha Griffith) did not have to go through what Serena and others had to go through to realize the American Dream. As a matter of fact, Jacintha is actually from Grenada, while the fictional character Serena is from Belize. In my communication(s) with Jacintha she wanted me to emphasize the romantic aspect of the story, which I did not do as much, and take emphasis off what we have heard and read in the news recently about the Paris and San Bernardino incidents. Overall, this is a tremendous and heartwarming book for a number of reasons, which I encourage all to read. 

Coveting the Dream, by Jacintha Griffith

I like the title of the book as well as the cover photo. Ms. Griffith's story, although fictional, resonates with a lot of immigrants who seem to think that America is the land of "milk and honey" and sooner rather than later they come to the realization that this is not the case. I am from the twin island of Trinidad and Tobago, and attended college in New York. I know and hear of many stories of immigrants who come here illegally and have done things that they would not have done under normal circumstances in order to obtain their green card. A great many have had regrets, many of them have gotten married to men they would not otherwise look at, just to stay in America. And Ms. Griffith is right, some of have paid a high price for the privilege of living in this land of opportunity, and despite this, the immigration issue will be ongoing for many years. Congratulations Ms. Griffith on your first book. I wish you continued success in your writing career. Jacqueline Carr - Author of A Selected Few Just For You

Thank you

Thanks for a non-fussy review. It is important that you emphasized that this story is dealing with emotions and god, both of which have very little to do with reality. This is why we continue to see the "surges" from Central America, through Mexico, to our borders. It is their local clergy and media that have directed desperate people to illegally migrate to the US by promising them they would receive "permisos." Due to Obama's lax enforcement of our Immigration Code, the deception has some credence.

Amazing review of "Coveting the Dream," by Dennis Moore

Thank you Mr. Moore for your detailed and insightful review of my first work of fiction and for your thoughts on the "hot button" issue of immigration reform. My hope is that people will read this book to get a glimpse into the human side of this issue, and will remember the characters in this story whenever they discuss the topic of illegal immigrants. This fictional story was not intended to take sides on this political issue, but to chronicle one woman's dream to embrace life here in the land of opportunities, and the barriers to that dream that she and others did not anticipate.