Books

When Six Words Say a Lifetime of Immigration Experience

Six Words Fresh Off the Boat is an upcoming book featuring experiencing of immigrants from common walks of life, as well as celebrities like Aziz Ansari and Mila Kunis.
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Eight months after the project was launched in the United States, Six Words Fresh Off the Boat remains as topical all over the world, if not more so. The upcoming book, in which many immigrants narrate their experiences of coming to the US from different countries, is scheduled to come out next week.

Titled Six Words Fresh Off the Boat: Stories of Immigration, Identity, and Coming to America, the book contains just that — a collection of stories from scores of people who moved to the US, in their own words — six of them. It includes hundreds of stories on the immigration experience, of ordinary people as well as celebrities, including actors, filmmakers, sportspersons and artists such as Aziz Ansari, Dr. Sanjay Gupta, Julianne Moore, and Amanda Palmer.

The 6-word story of Indian-American comedian-actor Ansari, for instance, goes as, “Every immigrant’s journey is truly incredible” while that of Mila Kunis, the actress of Ukrainian heritage, says, “A better life for our children.”

M.Night Shyamalan, the Puducherry-born acclaimed filmmaker, has come up with, “My accent has become my voice.”

Gay actor and activist George Takei, most remembered for playing Sulu in the original Star Trek TV series, had to live in a Japanese internment camp when he was a child during WWII. He says in his six-word memoir: “Even after internment, still love America.”

Hollywood Game Night host Jane Lynch refers to her Irish heritage, and says, “Old sod to New World tale.” American politician Madeleine Albright, who was born in Czechoslovakia and went on to become the first woman to take the post of United States Secretary of State under President Bill Clinton, has recounted her story as: “In 1948, I was a refugee”

The latest book also includes a foreword by Fresh Off the Boat showrunner Nahnatchka Khan and executive producer Melvin Mar, Entertainment Weekly reveals. Khan, whose parents migrated to the US from Iran, writes “We exist because these stories exist.” On the other hand, Mar, recounts how his father moved to America from China. “I owe it to my father,” he says.

Also featured in the book are experiences of the other members of the cast and crew of Fresh Off the Boat, the comedy TV series that shows the life of  an immigrant Taiwanese family in the US in the 1990s and their trials and tribulations while adjusting to the cultural and economic conditions of the US. So while Ian Chen, who plays Evan Huang in the show, says, “Designed in Asia, assembled in California”, coproducer Rachna Fruchbom talks of “Thanksgiving dinner with samosas and turkey.” Sanjay Shah, co-executive producer of the show, says “I learned Hinduism from Urban Outfitters.”

The project, a collaboration between the 20th Century Fox Television’s hit comedy Fresh Off the Boat and Larry Smith’s much-hailed brainchild Six-Word Memoir Project of 2006, has been edited by Smith himself. The crowd-sourced book had, at the time of launch, invited memoirs from people for consideration for inclusion.

“Our goal with this project was to highlight and honor the feelings and experiences surrounding immigration, in both a poignant and engaging way, which we know Larry Smith has achieved with his other Six-Word Memoirs,” Wendy Lefkon, the editorial director of publisher Kingswell, had said at the time.

Smith created the bestselling concept in November 2006 when he tweeted, “Can you describe your life in six words?” The idea, which has been called ‘American haiku’,  was met with instant frenzy. More than 1 million people have submitted stories until now, and the project has produced several New York Times bestsellers.  Smith has said that the inspiration behind his literary project comes from Ernest Hemingway’s famous shortest story, “For sale: baby shoes, never worn”.

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