Learning to Love America


Lim, Shirley Geok-Lin




Born in Malacca, Malaysia in 1944, Shirley Geok-Lin Lim was raised by her Chinese father and emigrated to the U.S. as a young woman. The author of several books of poetry, short stories and criticism, Lim is an emeritus professor of English at the University of California, Santa Barbara.  In "Learning to Love America" she explores what it means to develop an attachment to an adopted country, comparing such attachments to the bond between parents and children.  This poem could launch and frame conversations about citizenship, patriotism, ethnicity and identity.

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What the Fortune Teller Didn't Say by Shirley Geok-Lin Lim. West End Press, 1998.


Reading - Short Enough to Read Aloud.


Citizenship and DemocracyExclusion and BelongingIdentity and Community

Big Questions

What does it mean to be American?What does a sense of belonging make possible?What does it mean to be a stranger or an outsider? What does it feel like?How do we define who we are?

Sample Discussion Questions

  1. What reasons does the speaker give for loving America?
  2. Why is this love something that needs to be learned? What is the process of learning it?
  3. What does the speaker mean when she says that "to have a son is to have a country"? That "countries are in our blood and we bleed them"?
  4. How is the speaker's American identity like or unlike her son's?
  5. Have you ever had to learn to love a place where you lived, whether it was a country, a state, a city or a smaller community? Where does your own experience dovetail with or diverge from Lim's?
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