Minnesota Immigrant Oral Histories

India Association of Minnesota Oral History Project (Phase 2)

IAM Oral History Project phase 2 participants


DATE: 1997 – 1998

INTERVIEWER: Polly Sonifer

The second phase of the India Association of Minnesota Oral History Project continues an oral history research project initiated by the India Association of Minnesota. In 1994 and 1995, interviews with fifteen immigrants of Asian Indian decent were conducted and added to the MNHS oral history collections. In 1996 the second phase of this project began to track the adjustment and development of the children of the narrators interviewed in the first project. Although the majority of these interviews are with the children of the first generation, it was not possible in all cases to interview children, so some additional narrators have been included to provide balance and perspective.

The second-generation narrators were either born in the United States or came here as very young children. At the time of the interviews the narrators were between 18 and 40 years of age, with the majority in their mid to late twenties. Most of them grew up in homes which were bilingual and in some cases even trilingual. They faced the challenges of understanding two cultures as young children. They found that the social lives of their parents revolved primarily around the Indian immigrant community, while their school lives often included few if any other Indian students.

A major focus of these interviews was the passing on of cultures and values from one generation to the next. Many narrators also shared impressions and stories of visits to India. Some became fluent in two or more languages. Many can understand but cannot read or write their parents' spoken language. Some have embraced the food and dress of their parents, while others have become mainstream "American".

A recurring difference between the original immigrants and their children appears around the social issues of dating, marriage, and child-rearing. While the first generation largely followed the traditions of arranged marriage and traditional gender roles, these shifted dramatically in their children's generation. Several of these young narrators have married non-Indians. Most have chosen to marry for love rather than to follow a tradition of arranged marriage. Many did not yet have children at the time of the interviews. Those who did spoke of their concerns about sustaining their Indian culture and transferring information on language, food, and religion to their own children.

LENGTH OF INTERVIEWS: 26 hours 18 minutes

TRANSCRIPTS: 478 pages