Law Student Writes Memoir About Immigrating to America

Tapiwa Kapurura, an LL.M. candidate at the College of Law, has written and self-published* a fascinating memoir that documents his experiences growing up in war-torn Zimbabwe, Africa, and immigrating to the United States. In the following excerpt, Kapurura explains why he felt compelled to share his story with others:

I wrote Touching the American Rainbow to create a public platform for sharing my unique experiences with as many people as possible. The road to immigration is not as smooth or enticing as it may be assumed. There is far more involved in the causes and effects of immigration than most people are aware of. Poverty, war, breakdown of rule of law, or any life-disturbing aspects can catalyze anyone to join the pilgrimage to a "God-only-knows-where" destination.

I also wanted to encourage people not to stereotype immigrants as unscrupulous border jumpers, vagrants, criminals or liabilities to a given system. Immigration is mainly instigated by need, not greed. Most immigrants prefer to lead peaceful, honorable lives. Some, like me, were highly respected professionals in their native lands, driven out by the burning effects in a place-of-birth situation, leading them to drop from "heroes" to "zeroes."

It is never a luxurious option to leave one's land of birth, especially when you have to stop midstream on an established career path and part with family and friends. There are often many untold horror stories lurking in the minds' of immigrants. Some never get to see their family members for life; some have escaped artificial lions' dens administered by iron-fisted despots. Some have escaped death by a whisker, while some have run away from poverty, famine, disasters and other pestilences.

Immigration is a hassle to anyone, especially a professional who leaves his calling to begin a new life. It can start with the simplest challenges: food, clothing styles, customs and manners. It then moves on to other more serious issues, such as language, finding a place to live, weather conditions, the work culture, job-skills testing and employer expectations. While this myriad of events unfold concurrently, the immigrant strives to survive in the new environment, groping in darkness, taking chances, experimenting with the new conditions and trying to solve the quiz of the new place. One must compromise his or her ego and pride, be flexible, and be ready and willing to adapt to the new environment as the new terms of life are handed down. There must be readiness to absorb various kinds of ridicule, be patient with strangers, and be forgiving and bearing in the process.

The conditions and lifestyles in America are so comfortable for so many people that they may take this comfort for granted, never imagining themselves without it. Americans should be grateful for a considerate and accountable government, steady and ever-promising economy, peace in their homes, food, clean water, good schools, and many other facilities and institutions that the Third World is -- literally -- dying to have.

My memoir is an epitome of the common trials experienced in the life of an ordinary immigrant: psychological drawbacks, financial draw backs, and loneliness in a strange land. There is also the resultant determination to make life worth living and the urge to work hard and survive. I wrote the memoir hoping that I could, by the grace of God, help people appreciate what it's like to be an immigrant in America, and, therefore, realize more practical empathy. I also wrote it so that people planning to come to America, or who have just come to America, can learn some basic survival skills, so that they, too, can pursue the American dream.

A student profile of Kapurura will appear in the spring 2010 issue of Willamette Lawyer magazine.

*Kapurura is seeking a reputable publisher for his memoir. He can be contacted at the College of Law.