Thursday, August 18, 2011

"English for Immigrants

Edwin Ornstien

Fresh from her 30-year position with a firm, Claire Upton, drives her new mini car, a gift from the firm on her retirement, to a new life—teaching English to immigrants, beginning with an Indian family. Gone are her years with the firm; never forgotten is her love for Buster whose Lancaster never came back in WWII.

At the Indians’ home, she meets the shattering experience of prejudice by British individuals against what they perceive as unwanted Indians. The Indians are victims of vandalism. “Wogs go home.” She commiserates with them.

Her first attempts at teaching the Indians English (the British idioms, particularly), go awkwardly. On each succeeding visit, she sees signs of increasing destruction to the Indians’ home. She also meets their grandson who is in school and gets along well with his British “mates.”

Next, her prized mini car is vandalized. “Wog lover” is splashed on her car along with a dirty word. She refuses to have the words washed off and drives around displaying them to everyone around her. In the end, the Indians decide to go home to India, but the grandson does not want to go with them. He wants to live with Claire so she can become his “mum” He races home to ask if his relatives will let him stay in England with her. He has the courage to want to stay in spite of the prejudice—which his relatives do not. The story ends with Claire’s praying that his relatives will let her adopt him.

Comment: The reference to Claire’s experience in WWII is probably important. That war, in which she lost her boy friend, was fought in order to assure that hateful prejudice would never occur again. RayS.

Rating: **** out of *****.

About the Author: “A leading British expert on mail order and direct response advertising, Edwin Ornstien has written four books on marketing. During World War II, he served in the Royal Artillery and was a prisoner of the Japanese from 1942-5, including a harrowing spell building the notorious ‘Railway of Death’ in Burma and Thailand. Since 1976, he has been writing fiction, novels and short stories. His short stories appear in newspapers, magazines and have been read on BBC radio.”

 Short Story International #54. Ed. Sylvia Tankel. February 1986. Pp. 15-23. 

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