Though it probably caused the New York Times excruciating pain to admit this, a staple of the conventional American literary canon is undermining some contemporary educators' preferred method for "engag[ing] racially and ethnically diverse students in reading [through] books that mirror their lives and culture." As it turns out, F. Scott Fitzgerald's The Great Gatsby "resonates powerfully among urban adolescents, many of them first- and second-generation immigrants, who are striving to ascend in 21st-century America."
Here is the impression Gatsby has made on Jinzhao Wang, a 14-year-old immigrant from China:
She is inspired by the green light at the end of the dock, which for Jay Gatsby, the self-made millionaire from North Dakota, symbolizes the upper-class woman he longs for. “Green color always represents hope,” Jinzhao said.As a member of that class of "first- . . . generation immigrants, who are striving to ascend in 21st-century America," I heartily endorse Jinzhao Wang's sentiment. The vast fields of this Republic, rolling on under the night into the vast obscurity beyond the city, are ample enough to hold and to fulfill the dreams of every ambitious young person who is willing to gamble on the dream that is America.
“My green light?” said Jinzhao, who has been studying Gatsby in her sophomore English class at the Boston Latin School. “My green light is Harvard.”
I wish only that the architects of contemporary immigration law and policy in the United States would remember the splendor that has gripped every newcomer to this continent. As Fitzgerald wrote in Gatsby's concluding chapter:
[F]or a transitory enchanted moment man must have held his breath in the presence of this continent, compelled into an aesthetic contemplation he neither understood nor desired, face to face for the last time in history with something commensurate to his capacity for wonder.