America as a sense of belonging

Janet Shaw’s American Girl texts and my small town from Wisconsin both focus on representations of America that present culture, community, and belonging. The keyword America has no exact definition, however, there is a broad understanding of its term. Whether it is linked to the idea of being free, the feeling of belonging, or if it’s an association to land, many people can make their own interpretation of American or American-ness. Janet Shaw, in her books Meet Kirsten and Kirsten Learns A Lesson, she uses Kirsten to demonstrate what American means to her. In the beginning of Meet Kirsten, she understands America as a place for a fresh start when her mother tells her that going to America will bring them better fortune in comparison to their life in Sweden. Additionally, in Kirsten Learns A Lesson, Kirsten is able to find a sense of belonging in America, or more specifically, in her her community when she can memorize and read her poem aloud in English. At this moment Kirsten truly feels like an American.

I am from a small town called Waubeka, Wisconsin where everybody knows each other, and the local Friday fish fry is the place to be. About thirty years after Kirsten’s arrival to Minnesota, a teacher from my hometown named Bernard Cigrand thought it was appropriate to celebrate the adoption of the American flag. My hometown is the birthplace of the United States’ annual flag day. Just like how Kirsten felt at the end of Kirsten Learns A Lesson, my town views America or to be American, as a sense of belonging. On the weekend nearest to June 14 of every year, people gather along the streets of the fire department and celebrate the American flag with a parade. Overall, Janet Shaw’s interpretation of America and the attitudes of people from my hometown are very similar in that it represents a community.

On another interesting note, when Bernard Cigrand first celebrated flag day in 1885, he was a nineteen-year-old teacher who taught in a one room school similar to Miss Winston.

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