The Immigrant Advantage

The Immigrant Advantage by Claudia Kolker

My husband came to the United States from El Salvador, so you really don’t have to sell me on the idea of immigrants being admirable people that we can learn a lot from. That being said, The Immigrant Advantage by Claudia Kolker, is an excellent read – whether you need convincing or not.

You see, you may not realize it, but it’s something of an American tradition to pick and choose the best of all cultures and make it our own. This is a phenomenon the author talks about, and encourages, in The Immigrant Advantage. My favorite example that the author sited was this:

“In the mid-nineteenth century, an American cowboy in Colorado so admired the Mexican vaqueros’ wide-brimmed hats that he paid Stetson to craft one for him. The Mexicans deemed his knockoff tan galan, “so gallant,” a label that evolved into the “ten gallon” hat.” – The Immigrant Advantage / Claudia Kolker

The subtitle of the book is, “What We Can Learn from Newcomers to America about Health, Happiness, and Hope” and within the pages, Kolker gives us solid examples we can apply to our own lives. From Vietnamese money saving clubs, (also known as “tandas” in some Latin American countries), to Mexican “cuarentenas” – (a 40 day rest for new mothers), Kolker explores the most beneficial customs of immigrants from around the world that are still practiced in communities right here in the United States.

As Kolker explains, studies have shown that immigrants, “even those from poor, violent lands, who live hard lives in the United States, tend to be physically and mentally healthier than the rest of us.” What are they doing differently? — This book attempts to find the answer and succeeds in providing real, useful examples to take with you long after you’ve turned the last page.


Got a question for the author? Feel free to ask it in comments as she’ll be by to answer you!


About the author: Claudia Kolker has reported extensively from Mexico and Central America, as well as the Caribbean, Japan, India and Pakistan. A former Los Angeles Times bureau chief and member of the Houston Chronicle editorial board, she has also written for The Economist, The Washington Post, The Boston Globe, O: The Oprah Magazine, Slate, and Salon. She lives in Houston with her family. For The Immigrant Advantage, Kolker visited Korean and Chinese afterschools, West Indian multigenerational households in New Jersey, and Chicago’s “Little Village,” among others.

About the book: The Immigrant Advantage is a fascinating look into the lives of immigrant enclaves in the United States that we so seldom gain access to, and an inspiring exploration about how these customs can enrich our own lives. You may purchase a copy of this book at

Follow The Immigrant Advantage book tour at these other blogs!

October 24, 2011: Juan of Words
October 25, 2011: Voto Latino
October 26, 2011: Spanglish Baby
October 27, 2011: Latinaish
October 28, 2011: TikiTiki Blog
November 1, 2011: Chicano Soul
November 2, 2011: Motherhood in Mexico
November 3, 2011: Atzlan Reads
November 4, 2011: Multicultural Familia

Disclosure: This book was received for review purposes. All opinions are my own.


  1. I love the fact that you long ago spotted so many traditions (not to mention people!) you admired, and brought them into your own life. I’ve recently gotten interested in those words and phrases that express a notion perfectly – and just need to be adopted wholesale, rather than translated, for full effect. Salvadoran Spanish definitely has some excellent examples. ;)

    – Claudia Kolker

Note: You are not required to sign in to leave a comment. Please feel free to leave the email and/or website fields blank for an easier commenting experience.

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.