November 29, 2018
Both sides of my family, maternal and paternal, originate from western Canada. My ancestors immigrated to western Canada, in the waves of prairie settlement, from various places in Europe during the late 19th and early 20th centuries. Except for the Aboriginal people, Canadians are immigrants, and my family is no different.
my mom's parents wedding and my mom as a baby
Damien can lay a larger claim to his Canadian heritage as his paternal family came from France in those first waves of European immigration to the New World. But his mom, born in the Netherlands in 1946, came to Canada in the arms of her Dutch speaking war-bride mother. So yeah, we are an immigrant family.
Most of my family has remained in Canada but a few have moved south to the United States. My third Patreon podcast interview is with one of my American cousins.
Meet my cousin Kendra Perez.
Kendra and I cover a lot of territory in this interview. And like lots of good stories we begin by exploring one of the formative experiences of her childhood, specifically her family's immigration to the United States from Canada.
Kendra and I both share the experience of living in the United States as non-permanent residents and we both know, intimately, the insecurity of that position.
But as Kendra shares in this interview, the experience of the non-white immigrant, and especially, an undocumented immigrant, is uniquely precarious and fraught with tension and stress. And she would know because Kendra is married to a Mexican-born man who entered the country as an undocumented immigrant in his teens.
The story of how they are creating a life together as a young family in a largely immigrant community in Minneapolis, navigating careers and parenthood, and choosing a communal way of living with friends and family is the heart of this interview.
Kendra walks us through her decision to become a U.S. citizen and talks about the winding path of her post-secondary education starting at an East Coast liberal arts college and transferring to her local state college. She tells us the story of meeting her Mexican-born husband at a Jose Antonia Vargas speaking event in her mid-twenties. (And wasn't it just so handy that she had been a Spanish major in college?)
This is not an interview with a heavy political message, but I think you'll be surprised by some of the unexpected insights Kendra shares about immigration policy. Spoiler alert: it can't all be blamed on the current administration.
After listening to this interview I hope you will be inspired by the potential and opportunity of the unexpected, and sometimes disappointing-in-the-moment, twists and turns of our lives. I hope you will have a small insight into the experience of the "outsider"; the disenfranchised, the undocumented, the "not from here". (And if you are an outsider in your community or country this is an affirming message.) And I hope you will be intrigued about the possibilities of hospitality, shared resources, and communal living for building strong families and strong communities.
Family photo time.
In this interview we talk, briefly, about my wedding which Kendra was in, as were all my cousins. Here's a photo of our wedding party. Kendra is the tallest of the little girls directly to my left.
And here we are hanging out as adults and spending the night in Minneapolis at Kendra's home on our family's 2016 western road trip. And yes I basically wear pajama clothes while traveling.
Twelve year old Kendra with baby Celine. How much cuteness is this. Two adorable children. This was the summer we moved to New Jersey and the start of our family's 11 year sojourn living in the northern United States. (The visit that Kendra doesn't remember in our interview.)
Celebrating Brienne's 4th birthday, twelve years ago this month. This was the year Kendra attended Amherst college and came to spend Thanksgiving break with our family in Maine since we were closer than going back home to Minneapolis. In our interview we talk about Kendra's young adult transition from Amherst to her local state college, the realities of college tuition, and the unexpected paths our lives take.
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Mom on Nov. 30, 2018, 5:43 p.m.
After listening to Kendra's interview with you, besides feeling more connected to her as family, I appreciate more deeply the challenges of her story, about which I knew so little. Never too many family photos that always make my heart sing - I'm imagining Grandma Toews happily saying "Oh my!" seeing two of her grand-daughters sharing time and conversation. xo