Book Preview: Interview with Tina Schumann

Two Countries: US Daughters & Sons of Immigrant Parents is a new anthology published by Red Hen Press. We sat down with the editor of the collection Tina Schumann to discover what prompted this anthology. Volumes Bookcafe will hold a reading on October 17 starring local contributors.

Some people can hide it better than others. Tina Schumann is one of those people. Born to an Irish-German father and an Salvadoran mother, “white” is a blanket that would cover Schumann if you saw her.

While Schumann didn’t need to explain to onlookers that her childhood was narrated by the thick Salvadoran accent of her immigrant mother, she could not escape the fact that her mother was foreign. It wasn’t a reality she tried to escape, but it wasn’t one she embraced either.

“Spanish is my mother’s language, not mine.” Schumann states.

As of 2016, there were 319 million people in the United States, and 13% of that population was foreign born. Schumann is one of many with an immigrant parent. Although Schumann grew up in a diverse neighborhood in San Francisco, she still witnessed small-mindedness when it came to her or her mother’s race. “I’m someone who needs to be explained, and so is my mother” she points out.

Schumann would later find a way to explain herself through poetry, publishing two collections, but like all writers, she was looking for something more. She had explored her experience as a child of an immigrant, but she wanted to know how others grew up feeling “American” and “other.”

She couldn’t find anything but academic papers on the experiences of first generation American citizens. The need to hear the lived experience of fellow children of immigrants drove Schumann to call for submissions of a new anthology Two Countries: US Daughters & Sons of Immigrant Parents.

The anthology is one of the first platforms for writers with immigrant parents to fully explore and express the difficulties and joys of straddling two worlds. Schumann would love if the anthology prompts hard conversations. Mostly though, she hopes it reaches the children of immigrants who aren’t creative writers. There’s no guidebook on how to be a person, let alone a person whose identity is so intertwined with a foreign culture.

Schumann laughs, “I’m not crazy, I’m a human being, I’m a part of the tribe,” and the anthology is a reminder that the tribe exists.

The anthology mixes prose and poetry, and the pieces range from painful to funny. Renowned poets like Li-Young Lee and Naomi Shihab Nye have contributed, as well as Chicago writers. This Tuesday night at Volumes Bookcafe, Chicago contributors Jeanie Chung, Sahar Mustafah, Natalie Tilghman, and Zhanna Slor will be reading their pieces.


Reading at Volumes Bookcafe,
1474 N. Milwaukee Ave.,
Chicago IL, 60622
7-9 p.m.

You can order your copy of Two Countries for $18.95 here.

Sherry Zhong
Sherry Zhong