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Reviewed by Donna Gielow McFarland for Readers' Favorite
Quest of the American Dream: A Guide to Culture Shock Encounters among Immigrants and American Visitors by Dominic Charles Okero is a charming first-person account of a man from rural Kenya who immigrated to America in search of a better life. After giving some brief background, Quest of the American Dream chronicles the author’s journey beginning with his frantic attempts to navigate bureaucratic red tape without missing his flight. He finally does arrive in America and the rest of the book is his story of experiencing culture shock, trying to find and keep a job, managing his finances and a place to live, and even dealing with workplace discrimination, which he describes as bullying. He takes an admirable approach to the bullying – he considers it simply another hurdle to overcome in his assimilation into the culture and so he ignores it and focuses on working hard.
The writing in Quest of the American Dream feels fresh and casual, almost as if Dominic Charles Okero is sitting across the table from the reader, telling his story. Reading his account of the plane flight, I was almost frantic myself, wondering if he would make it! His observations on the culture range from being taken by surprise by America’s affluence to absolute astonishment that drivers follow the rules of the road. Driving is a pervasive theme throughout the book. On a trip to Kenya, I experienced the bafflement of not being able to understand spoken English because of the accent. Dominic Charles Okero faced the same challenge to understand and be understood when he came to America. The book's language usage reflects the fact that it’s written by someone who learned English in a different culture. I found much of it to be endearing and somewhat quaint.
Dominic Charles Okero’s Quest of the American Dream is intended as a guide for other immigrants and, indeed, when he encounters other immigrants, their stories are similar so there is a solidarity there. But its most important purpose might be to create empathy in those left behind in their home country, imagining their loved ones basking in the land of milk and honey. With the topic of immigration so much in the news, the book may also help Americans empathize with the plight of an immigrant trying to find his way in a strange land. I recommend Quest of the American Dream as a supplemental read for anyone interested in immigration issues.