The Immigrant Advantage: An Inspirational Slice of American Culture -Book Review

Lessons for everyday life.

A couple months ago I got the email.  It was author Claudia Kolker and she wanted to get together to catch up and talk.  We did, and what she had to tell me in that very fast and furious lunch was just as exciting as the book that would eventually make it into my hands as a result of this meeting a couple of weeks later.  Now I’ve known Claudia personally for several years now and from the very beginning, our very first encounter canvassing local neighborhoods encouraging people to register to vote, she has been one of the most impassioned and giving people I know.  I mean she literally showed me the path, complete with who to talk to and what to tell them, to take my love for writing from a farfetched dream to a reality.  To me, Claudia has always been a wonderful mentor… and a very generous one at that.

So it seemed only natural that when she started describing her new book, The Immigrant Advantage, that it was all about helping others in a new way.  What she described about learning from people like my parents, their parents, and so many others like us, Mexican or not, all recent immigrants to this great country, at once struck me as both genius and quite daunting.  I’ll admit, I was a little confused at first at how such an innovative and broad subject matter could be tackled in just one book, but I knew Claudia’s writing well enough to know that if anyone had the finesse and thoughtfulness to put something like this together in words it would be her.

Turns out, I was right!

Not only does the book take the reader through a colorful slice of American culture, from Korean afterschool programs to the conundrum of having your parents literally helping you select your best potential spouse (this would have been a pretty hilarious process in my case), as well as the importance of mothering a mother after she gives birth in the Mexican tradition known as the cuarentena, among several others, The Immigrant Advantage tells these stories in a heartfelt and often humorous tone.  I think that’s what I’ve enjoyed most about the book; that it has made me feel like I’ve been right there next to Claudia the entire time she was visiting and talking to these families and characters about their stories.  I feel connected to them.

And best of all, after finishing The Immigrant Advantage I feel like I have so many new tools at my disposal.  Honestly, I can’t wait to try out a lot of these customs for myself.  I might be hitting up some of you to join my tanda (money saving club – one of the chapters in the book) pretty soon… so beware!

If you could use a little help in any of the following subject matters, this book is definitely a must read: saving money, making time for a family meal, supporting a college education, maybe even fending off diseases, financing home ownership, and/or building a buffer from the physical and psychological assaults of poverty.

NOTE: Author Claudia Kolker will be visiting this blog on Monday, October 24, 2011, to review your messages and answer any questions you might have, so please feel free to leave all comments below.  I will also be giving away a copy of The Immigrant Advantage to one lucky reader.  For a chance to win this free copy please leave a comment on this post, along with your email address so that I can contact you if you are the winner.  The winning commenter will be selected at random.

This post is an official tour stop of The Immigrant Advantage Book Tour.

Monday, October 24, 2011: Juan of Words –
Tuesday, October 25, 2011:
 Chicano Soul –
Wednesday, October 26, 2011:
Spanglish Baby –
Thursday, October 27, 2011:
Latinaish –
Friday, October 28, 2011:
TikiTiki Blog –
Tuesday, November 1, 2011:
Voto Latino –
Wednesday, November 2, 2011:
Motherhood in Mexico –
Thursday, November 3, 2011:
Atzlan Reads –
Friday, November 4, 2011:
Multicultural Familia –

Claudia Kolker

About the Author: Claudia Kolker has reported extensively from Mexico and Central America, as well as the Caribbean, Japan, India and Pakistan. A former Los Angeles Times bureau chief and member of the Houston Chronicle editorial board, she has also written for The Economist, The Washington Post, The Boston GlobeO: The Oprah Magazine, Slate, and Salon. She lives in Houston with her family.  For The Immigrant Advantage, Kolker visited Korean and Chinese afterschools, West Indian multigenerational households in New Jersey, and Chicago’s “Little Village,” among others.

About the book: The Immigrant Advantage is a fascinating look into the lives of immigrant enclaves in the United States that we so seldom gain access to, and an inspiring exploration about how these customs can enrich our own lives.  You may purchase a copy of this book at

FTC Disclosure: Juan of Words received a free copy of the book from the author as part of a Simon & Schuster book tour. Juan of Words was not required to write a positive review. The opinions expressed are my own.

7 thoughts on “The Immigrant Advantage: An Inspirational Slice of American Culture -Book Review

  1. Hi Juan, I’m back! Haha! I love your book reviews. This one sounds like one I’d be very interested in reading. Hope I’m the lucky winner ; )

  2. Sounds like a very interesting book. Would love to win a copy for myself. I wonder what made Claudia think about this particular subject matter for a book?

    1. Kelly Hey, now that’s an idea . Christy They do look like sleeping bags Great obesrvation let’s hope they work!Fabbie I’ve heard that too.TWM Too true.FuriousBall Thanks, I needed that.Claudia I know. May snow brings . dead plants? Let’s hope not.Ivanhoe Yes, a cold snap . Only time will tell on the veggies but thanks.Janet Rules of living: if you ever kill someone? Never tell a living soul. Oops, I guess I just .

  3. Thanks for your comments. I think this idea first germinated when I worked as a reporter in Latin America and the Caribbean, and met so many people working with such focus to improve their lives. Then, after I started working as a reporter in Houston, and many of my friends turned out to be immigrants, I kept finding traditions that I envied, wanted to write about — or wanted to copy for myself.

  4. Thank you all for participating in this book tour. A special thanks to Claudia for keeping track of the comments and for leaving a few of her own thoughts. Please make sure and visit the other blogs on this book tour to gain more insight on ‘The Immigrant Advantage.’

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