I didn't grow up here.: Becoming Minnesotan

Kusum Saxena, c.1995.
  • Name - Kusum Saxena
  • Age at interview - 61
  • Gender - Female
  • Generation - First Generation American / Immigrant
  • Date of Interview - 09.30.1994
  • SILC students attend Masters of Percussion at Ted Mann Concert Hall, Minneapolis

    Essential Question

    Becoming Americans: What does it mean to be an American?

    Problems in America: What could have helped this person’s adjustment in the U.S.?

    Words to look for


    Background Information

    Many Indian immigrants struggle with their “dual identity”.  It is often difficult for Indian parents to raise their children in what they consider to be a foreign culture.  It is very important to these first generation immigrants that they work to maintain the language, food, music, and other cultural practices from their home in India - and they want their children to keep up with these traditions.  However, tt can be difficult for young Indian-Americans to grow up in a place that their parents don’t fully understand.  This younger generation can feel more “American” than “Indian”.  They grow up surrounded by friends and classmates who are not Indian, and become influenced by these different cultures.  Second generation children often clash with their parents when they decide to forego certain Indian traditions.

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

    • Chapter 1

    Download Kusum Saxena 2
    3:40 Minutes | 3.52Mb


    Narrator: Kusum Saxena (KS)

    Interviewer: Polly Sonifer (PS)

    PS:  Are there any things that you can identify that were different from having raised your children in this culture as to how you imagined it would have been had you stayed in India?

    KS:  Very different, 360 degrees! They grew up in a culture which was very different for me and for them. Especially in their teenager group.

    We had some problems.  Many times I was told that you can’t force your cultural beliefs here.  And it was hard for me, because I didn’t know anything else, I didn’t grow up here. I had to gain the experience of growing up through my children.  And that was very hard, and sometimes there were conflicts.  But again the values emphasized were the same as they were for me, that you have to be educated in all aspects of life, it's just not studies. You have to grow up as a strong person who can stand on your own two feet, not only monetarily, but handling the challenges and difficulties of life. You can’t always have a protected, sheltered life. 

    So they were exposed to a lot of different things.  Whenever we traveled, we gave them extensive training in traveling, meet other people. Because I think traveling and meeting different people of different societies and different countries and different languages provides a much broader view of life and tolerating other cultures and other people than just living in one culture in one town.

    They both had training in doing their own things.  Sometimes they didn’t clean their own rooms, which is expected. After all, they’re children, they're not adults. I’m talking at that time. Everything shouldn’t go a hundred percent correct.  There has to be rewards.

    They were taught how to manage money. Very early in the game they had their own separate checking accounts. I would take them to the bank to learn how to write checks, how to withdraw money, how to deposit money. They had some allowances, and they both worked in their schooling. My son didn’t work because he was going to SPA and he didn’t have any time to work. But my daughter would work in Target and things like that. They were always taught the value of money. They didn’t have a deprived childhood, but they didn’t have everything. I didn’t give them cars until they were in college. They wanted one when they got their driver’s license. We could afford it, but my principle was that they don’t need to have a car when they are in college. After the college, once you finish, then you are going further studies or you’re going to work, so that’s the time you would get the car. I was called names for that.

    PS:  By your children?

    KS:  By the children!

    Related Glossary Terms


    Noun:  Part of something; the way something looks when viewed from a certain angle.


    Adjective:  Relating to the traditions and customs of a group or society.


    Noun:  The arts, customs, and habits that characterize a particular society or nation.


    Verb:  To stress, give emphasis, or special weight to.  (emphasizes, emphasizing, emphasized)


    Noun:  1. Participation in events, leading to knowledge, opinons, or skills.  2. The knowledge thus gathered.


    Verb:  To introduce to; to become familiar with.  (exposes, exposing, exposed)


    Adjective:   A large amount; covering a large area.


    Verb:  To recognize; to determine.  (identifies, identifying, identified)


    Adjective:  Describes a person who grew up being overprotected by parents or other guardians; often implies a lack of social skills, worldly experience, etc.


    Noun:  The people of one’s country or community taken as a whole.


    Noun:  The quality that makes something desirable or valuable; the degree of importance one gives to something. 

    Verb:  To regard highly; think much of; place importance upon.  (values, valuing, valued)


    Noun:  A collection of guiding, usually positive principles; what one deems to be correct and desirable in life, especially regarding personal conduct.


    Minnesota Historical Society. Becoming Minnesotan: Stories of Recent Immigrants and Refugees. September 2010. Institute of Museum and Library Services. [Date of access]. http://www.mnhs.org/immigration
    nid: 622