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 email@example.com or you can follow him on Twitter at: @DennisMoore8