Tethered: Narratives of Immigration began as a project of “CWL340 World Literature: Literature of Immigration,” a course offered through the Creative Writing and Literature department at Stony Brook University.

When Martina Clark and I designed the course, which we co-taught in Spring 2016, we decided to supplement our reading list with an experiential component—the collection of oral histories of immigration.

Students spent months gathering notes from the field, conducting in-depth interviews with family, friends, community members, and mentors who moved to New York from far-flung places. They came back to the classroom with stunning portraits of the turbulent experience of immigration.

The stories were too important not to share. With the material they collected, students wrote nonfiction narratives that are novelistic in form. Using tools of literature – plot, suspense, detail, dialogue, image, symbolism – they created worlds that shimmer off the page.

The 26 stories collected here span five continents and range in time from the 1940s to the present. They bear witness to the anonymous, floating feeling of arriving in an unfamiliar culture. They tell of lives that are tethered, finally, to a distant place.

This anthology is a testament to that duality. In its pages you’ll find a Dominican man who makes a pact with the devil, a Korean-American bride who has a disturbing memory while trying on her wedding gown, and a young woman fleeing rubble and ruin in Malta after World War II.

But you’ll also read stories of success and joy. A Brazilian student reads Edgar Allen Poe at her new high school in New York City and finds her voice. A Pakistani family leaves a son behind and reunites with him in Queens many years later. A Polish immigrant meets an intriguing stranger in a cake shop on Eighth Avenue. An Irish immigrant tells her daughter about her homeland across the ocean.

For their patience in allowing us to tell their stories with fidelity and care, we would like to thank the many interviewees who donated their time and memories to this project. It is not easy to reflect on the past and share it publicly, and we are indebted to them for their belief in the importance of that act. Due to the sensitive nature of the narratives, we have changed many names.

Many thanks to Robert Reeves, Carla Caglioti, Julie Sheehan, and Margaret Grigonis from the Creative Writing and Literature Department at Stony Brook Southampton for their generous support and nurturing. Ben Dalton built a beautiful website and deserves our gratitude. The senior editors and art directors listed on the Masthead worked tirelessly to edit, design, and proof all 26 narratives published here. Finally, thanks to our student authors, without whom this project would not have come to fruition, nor would these stories have been told.

What follows is our digital record of the lived experiences of immigration. We invite you to roam.

Alison Fairbrother
Stony Brook, NY
May 2016