Sacrifices made for the sake of education.: Becoming Minnesotan

Lisa Gada Norton, c.1999.
  • Name - Lisa Gada Norton
  • Age at interview - 28
  • Gender - Female
  • Generation - Second Generation American
  • Date of Interview - 11.07.1997
  • East Indian man and young woman, c.1895. Photographer: Elias G. E. Dorge.
    Local residents welcome Senator Walter Mondale to their village, India, 1967.

    Asian Indian, Education

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    Essential Question

    Life in the Old Country: What makes a country a person’s homeland?

    Traditions & Values: What makes up “culture”?

    Words to look for

    boarding school

    Background Information

    In India, many schools are run as boarding schools where students live in dorms during the school year and go home to visit their families only at certain times of the year.  Even though  a lot of schools are free in India, there are many other expenses like books, uniforms, and housing. Thus, some families still have to make sacrifices to send one daughter or son on in school.  

    To learn more about Asian Indian history and culture, visit our Asian Indian Community page.

    • Chapter 1

    Download Lisa Gada Norton 1
    2:55 Minutes | 2.8Mb


    Narrator: Lisa Gada Norton (LG)

    Interviewer: Polly Sonifer (PS)

    PS:  Can you tell me about what you know and understand about your parents' background in India?

    LG:  Because that kind of stuff was so important to my mother, I grew up with stories of their pasts as if they were my own. Stories were definitely handed down to me. I know about my dad. He grew up in a small town. They were very poor. My grandfather was sick. My dad was the eldest of my grandmother. My grandmother pretty much had to raise that family because my grandfather was sick. My dad and my uncle were sent to boarding school, and they noticed and realized that my father was very intelligent, very smart, so the family made the sacrifice to send him to continue with school, and everyone else went back to the family and helped support the family. So my dad's been on his own most of his life.

    My dad went further, went to college, went to engineering school in India and then came here for his master's.

    My mom lived in Bombay proper. She was the youngest of four, so she was the fifth, quite a bit younger, didn't expect her.   When the other kids were little, my grandfather's brother died, and he promised him that he'd take care of his family. So they had a total of ten kids in his house.

    So, by the time she was born, everyone was kind of older and that kind of thing, and so she was really was very close to her parents and was basically alone with them in the house for most of her life.

    So she had a very different lifestyle than my father, a lot more money. There were lean times, but she was a lot more comfortable and that kind of thing than my father. She went to school, college, and then a couple years later got married to my father and came here.

    PS:  What did your mother major in or study in college?

    LG:  I believe it was sociology. I believe she started law school, but then she got married and came here and decided not to pursue that.

    PS:  That was fairly unusual in her generation for a woman to go to law school.

    LG:  Oh, absolutely. I love this part about my history. My grandparents were married - gosh, at twelve, whatever, second-grade level of high school, my grandparents. They're the most forward people. They gave my mother freedom, not the extent we have in this country, but freedom for India, for a woman, is a really big deal, and she was given every freedom. She was taught, if you want to go to school, you get to go to school. Her other siblings didn't get that, different times. You know, different. They all got married young. So my mom really was special, and she really got a different life than her siblings. So, yes, she got to go to school, and educated, absolutely.

    Related Glossary Terms

    boarding school

    Noun:  A school which provides board and lodging to students.  Students go home at weekends or between terms.


    Noun:  The profession of applying scientific, mathematical, economic, social, and practical knowledge to design and build structures, machines, devices, systems, materials and processes that safely realize solutions to the needs of society.


    Noun:  The space, area, volume, etc., to which something moves to, stretches, or encompasses.


    Noun:  1. A period of around thirty years, the average amount of time before a child takes the place of its parents.  2. A group of people who are of approximately the same age.


    Adjective:  Having little extra or little to spare.


    Noun:  The way a person lives that reflects their personal values.


    Verb:  To aim for or go after; to particpate in.  (pursues, pursuing, pursued)


    Noun:  The act of giving up something valuable to gain something else. 


    Minnesota Historical Society. Becoming Minnesotan: Stories of Recent Immigrants and Refugees. September 2010. Institute of Museum and Library Services. [Date of access].
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