How Second Generation Immigrant Opens Dialogue with Parents - Nina Godiwalla

In Chapter 7 of 14 of her 2010 Capture Your Flag interview, "Suits: A Woman on Wall Street" author Nina Godiwalla shares the difficulty expressing her experiences as a second-generation Parsi immigrant to her parents. Godiwalla turns to writing, where she is able to share her side of the story and, specifically, go into detail on the challenges of being both an American girl and an outsider from an immigrant family. The difficult process teaches Godiwalla about her parents own experiences and difficulties, ultimately creating an openness allowing both sides to understand the other.


Erik Michielsen: What have your experiences as a second-generation immigrant taught your parents about what it means to be American?

Nina Godiwalla: Wow, what have I taught my parents? It’s funny, we just, my, I feel like every day can be a culture clash in our household, I was just with my family this weekend and it was funny, my mom was like ‘I’m not going to do it that way! That way’s American! You’re trying to force me to do it that way!’ and I was like ‘I don’t want to do it that way! This is the way we do it!’ And after I’ve written my book, which is, I have to say a lot of things have aired out because largely the book is -- what the book covers, part of what it covers, is how I kind of grew up in this American Culture, my parents grew up in a different country and had no idea what we were going through, I mean they just couldn’t have even, I still remember my mom like saw something on TV, she was like ‘There aren’t drugs in your school are there?’

I mean we never had anything like that, it was just always this constant, you know we’re operating on two different planes and for them, it’s been a learning experience on both sides, it’s been such an extreme learning experience and my book allows me to tell my side of ‘Hey dad, when you were telling me to do this the whole time this is what I was going through’ and it hasn’t allowed my parents to ever say their side, it’s very much my perspective and that’s all I know and what just dumbfounds me about my parents is I’d always expected like a guilt trip like ‘Do you understand I did this and this and this? And do you understand…’ and you get it a little bit from them but it’s just so rare, to know how different their experience was and what I’m getting after writing my book and having -- I had to have my parents read it and say ‘Look this is what’s going out, you can be mad at me, we can talk about it, whatever’ I’ve had them read it and you know they’ve had to, it’s not their perspective, it’s my perspective and what is beautiful for me though is it’s opened up this conversation and I wanted the book to open up a dialogue for a broader audience, I never expected it would open up a dialogue for my family.

And what’s great to me is my dad just doesn’t complain about life, it’s just this is what it is, everyday is this is what it is, it’s just, its very rare that he complains and he, just to hear his perspective on some stuff for the first time in my life to hear him say -- and I’m not even necessarily getting it from him, his brother was actually helping me understand, he said ‘Do you understand that we did this and this and this?’ and just thought ‘No, my dad’s never said that to me, he’s never said how difficult it was for them when they came from America, I don’t understand’.

And I don’t know their perspective and it’s been, it’s -- and I think that’s why it can be very difficult when you’re having completely experiences and I honestly, they can’t understand and we want to understand each other but, wow, I just have to say it’s so completely different. And I’m excited that my family’s moving towards that, we’re trying. It’s not easy and I think it’ll take a very long time but we’re trying to open up that dialogue and I hope to learn their perspective and all we can do right now is just learn from each other as much as we can.