Riding Shotgun: A Non-Citizen Finds His Identity as an American


I once was told by a fellow immigrant that living in America is like being in a car going on a never-ending road trip — the citizens are driving, but we new residents are riding shotgun, feet propped up on the dash, along for the ride. At its best, the years whoosh by as if you are sailing down a long stretch of open highway. But occasionally, the driver is tired, they miss the exit, and then they silently — or loudly — blame you for it.

I slid into the passenger’s seat of this beautifully convoluted joy-ride known as America more than 22 years ago. Granted, I didn’t have much of a choice. I was just a gurgling toddler when my parents stepped out of the Arrivals Terminal of Philadelphia International Airport, weathered bags in hand, to start life anew in an unknown land. Over the years, I was raised like most other immigrant children, by teetering the line between the heritage that dwelled within the walls of my home and the culture that prevailed outside of it. For breakfast, I ate Vegemite on toast, and for lunch, I had Wawa hoagies and Rita’s “wooder” ice in all of its impossibly bright shades. I knew that I was Australian, but at the same time, I would