Letters From Kids

Letters From Mr. Daniel's Fourth-Graders
(after hearing the life between cultures presentation)

Dear Mitali,
Thanks so much for your outstanding presentation of what it was like to be an immigrant and to grow up in two worlds. Students were mesmerized and I decided it was too good a teachable moment to pass up so I assigned them to write a letter to you. They worked for about two days in class and for several days as a homework assignment to write you letters in connection with our study of historical and current immigration. I also want to let you know that a couple of students did their most enthusiastic writing all year on these letters.
Thanks so much,
Tom Daniels

Dear Ms. Perkins,
Hi. I’m Jonee. You did an awesome job with the learning presentation. I have a couple of questions for you. How long have you lived in India? Was there war while you were in India?

I remember when you said you were born and your parents cried because she was a girl and they wanted a boy. That happened to my friend. Her dad wanted a boy to play football with him.

I have a connection to your life. When I came to Newton Schools I felt embarrassed because I was the only black in my class. My problems changed because I let the class know about me. Me and my friend had things in common. But everyone gets to know more about slavery.

I also remember when you said in your school in California you were the only Indian in your class. People didn’t talk to you for three months. That’s a long time.

I learned a lot about you, your country and manners. I hope you come next time so we could see the books you made. Bye! Thanks for coming.

Jonee H.

Dear Mitali,
I’m a kid at Mason-Rice and I loved the presentation you gave in the library. I learned so many interesting things about the Indian culture. Here are some things that stuck in my head.

I remember when you talked about stereotypes in movies and in your everyday life. You talked about how in movies like Aladdin and The Hunchback of Notre Dame they used Indian characters as heroes but with an American accent. They only used real Indians as bad guys or crazy people. You also talked about when you went to a new school. People were scared of you because they thought you knew some Kung Fu moves just because you are Indian. The made me think about if I’ve said or heard any stereotypes and how bad it must make the person feel of whom it was directed at.

I also remember when you talked about manners and culture. I was very surprised when you told us about how Indians eat food. I had always thought that Indians were very strict, but I guess I was totally wrong You told us how Indians eat with their left hand and use the bathroom with your right. I also now know what kinds of foods you eat and it was really cool when we got to smell the spices. You also taught us what kind of cloths and jewelry Indians wear. You told us how married women wear different clothes than unmarried women like gold jewelry, a red streak of ink across their scalp, and a special Sari. That gave me the impression that married women are a lot more honored than unmarried women.

A lot of the time you were talking I was making connections from your life to my own life. When you told us how hard it was moving to a new country I remember how hard it was when I moved from Watertown to Newton. I had to start a new school and make new friends. I thought moving to a new town was hard but that’s nothing compared to what you did!

I’m really glad you came to Mason-Rice School because if you didn’t I never would have learned so many wonderful facts about immigration. Would it be okay if I passed on some of what you taught me to people who didn’t get to hear your presentation? I’m sure they’d love to learn something.

Dear Ms. Perkins,
Thank you for coming to my school, Mason-Rice, and presenting your stories about your life. I remember you talking about your culture, appearance and life between worlds. I also have some connections with you like, translating for your parents, speaking in two different languages, and my culture is different than Americans.

The things I remember about you saying about your culture is the food, the clothes, and the language. You said that the food was very spicy and we smelled some of the spices your mother made. You also said that the guests could get more and more food until they were full. The clothes you showed us were your mom’s and dad’s. I remember Mr. Daniels tried on your father’s shirt. You also talked about the language you and your family spoke in India.
Then you talked about your appearance in your life. You said that you thought your mom looked funny when you were going to school when you were a kid, but now you think she looks wonderful. It was funny when the bullies thought you knew karate and didn’t pick on you.

After that you talked about your life between two worlds. You said that it was hard to remember the table manners for India and America because you had to switch back and forth at meal times. There were different table manners in each country. You also said that you had to help your mom translate at stores and other places.

My life is similar to yours because I also sometimes translate for my parents, on the phone, watching T.V., and yes, in public too. I also speak two different languages, Chinese and English. Some people laugh because I speak a weird language.

Kevin Z.

Dear Ms. Perkins,
Thank you so much for coming to my school! I loved your slide show and your presentation was great! It’s so amazing that we both like sweet tarts.

I find your culture very interesting except for the part about your family having to give dowries to your husband’s family, especially when you have three daughters. Also I’d be pretty anxious if I didn’t know who I was marrying! When your parents cried I thought they would be happy but I think three dowries is a lot to pay.

But now your dad decides to move to America because he would have to pay a lot of money and then he’d probably have to work harder to buy stuff for the family. First, you moved to New York, which wasn’t the best life for you. There weren’t a lot of jobs and you didn’t get a lot of new clothes.

Then you decided to move to California! I can’t believe nobody talked to you for three months! For one thing I’m glad the bullies didn’t hurt you, but I wonder why they thought you had special karate powers. It was also weird for the Trekkies to ask you to be on their show! I would have said exactly what you said, “thanks, but no thanks,” and walked away quickly.

Thank you again for coming to our school! I think that soon tons of Indians will come to the United States and you will realize that they will go through the same thing as you. I think you are a great author and I hope you can come to our school again.

P.S. If you give me your address I’ll send you some sweet tarts:-)

Dear Mitali Perkins,
I was at your presentation on the second. I am also the youngest.
I think Mr. Daniels felt odd in your dad’s shirt but then he felt fine. Lots of people are really obsessed with what they look like. I think saris are cool because they are only a piece of cloth.

People these days are so stereotypical, especially hospitals, but only because they always give the girls a pink blanket and boys a blue one.

I am not very proud of this but before the presentation I thought, “another boring presentation,” but boy was I wrong. I liked smelling the spices a lot, even though some of them stayed with me for the whole day. I also really liked it when you showed your pets. I have a dog too but she is really small.
This is going to sound kind of odd but does your name mean anything?

P.S. Please write back.

Dear Mitali,
I liked your presentation about your life. It was awesome! My name is Lauren from Mason-Rice School. I enjoyed how you put on a sari on my teacher and on the librarian. Is a sari uncomfortable? Your presentation is very interesting.

My great grandfather was the first one in my family to immigrate to the U.S.. He went to the U.S. because he was poor in China and the only thing he did in China was farming so when he went to the U.S. he worked hard and got lots of money. Then he would send the money back to his family for them to have a better life.

My great great grandparents, my great grandparents, my grandparents, and my parents immigrated to the U.S. They immigrated to the U.s. for them to have a better life. They were from either China or Hong Kong.
Do you like traveling? I wonder how it felt like traveling from India to New York and then to California. I loved to travel. I’d travel to New York, Hong Kong, Maine and Florida.

I like how you showed us your books near the end of the presentation. How did you get the Idea? Since I was six years old, I loved to write stories about fairies and princesses. Did you think being an author was fun? Once i saw one of your books at the New England Book Fair. I showed it to my parents. They were very excited and wanted me to read it this summer vacation.

Lauren W.

Dear Mitali,
I’m a kid at Mason-Rice. Here are some things I learned about your experience as an immigrant and your culture.

I like your stories about your early years. In India if you have a girl you make a dowry to give to the husband when she gets married. Your family had three dowries and they needed the money in them so you moved to America. I would have hated to have my parents cry tears of sadness when I was born. They cried for good reasons though: men can work in crops. They would then have only two dowries instead of three and fathers usually want boys. I don’t know why though. Even then I would have been hurt. I thought it was very wrong to dress you up like a boy. There is nothing wrong with being a girl.
In your early years in America you had lots of problems. You kind of had two worlds, your American life and your Indian life. For instance, the manners were very different and you ate very different foods most of the time and it must have gotten very confusing. No one talked to you for an extremely long times besides Trekkies of course. The school bullies weren’t a problem to you though. They thought you were a karate expert. You didn’t appreciate your culture at all. You wanted your parents to have a British accent and look like the Brady Bunch parents.

Now you’ve changed a lot. You appreciate your culture and your problems have gotten you a career. You think Indian clothes are beautiful and you love Indian food. You might not do everything your parents did but you still think your culture is cool. Writing about your problems is a fantastic idea. All you’re doing is really confessing your problems and getting paid to do it. That is a really cool job.

Being an immigrant has its ups and downs but it seems mostly good. Thank you for coming to our school. Please come again.

P.S. If you send me your address I’ll mail you some Sweet Tarts.

Dear Mrs. Perkins,
I loved the interview of your life about being an immigrant that you shared with the fourth graders at Mason-Rice Elementary. I’m sure all the others did too.

I remember you talking about your sisters getting in trouble with dating, the outfits you didn’t want your parents to wear in public and how your kids, (boys), wanted you to show us your pets (2 ferrets and 1 dog.)

When you talked about your sister getting in trouble dating I thought it was interesting because you explained how in India the man or boy was supposed to pick the girl and how different it was here in the U.S.

I liked how the Indian outfits looked. They’re just as good as American clothes. It was an especially interesting detail that you said it was rude to touch the hind garments of a lady’s sari.

Your two boys and your ferrets are very cute. They’re also similar to an animal I studied in third grade, the weasel. Your dog was also cute. Strider is a good name. I also have a pet too. It’s a fish and it’s name is Flame.

P.S. the spices smelled good.

Dear Ms. Perkins,
First thing is thank you for taking time out of your day to visit us. I think your presentation was really neat and awesome! When you lived in California I can’t believe in school nobody talked to you for three months.

I wonder why your parents cried when you were born. I would think they would be filled with laughter and joy. It probably felt like they did and didn’t love you. It’s funny how you were embarrassed by the way your parents dressed.

I can’t believe that the bullies wouldn’t come near you because they thought you knew some special karate or something.

I wonder why you were the only dark skinned person in your whole school. That must have been hard.

That’s so cool that you’re an immigrant and that you moved from India to New York to California. Like you said “I was a California girl.” To tell you the truth since you’re an immigrant it makes you special. Also since you moved a lot you can connect with people more.

I can make a connection to you by that I used to have a dog named Zak. He was half corgi and half shelty. Thanks for coming again.


Dear Ms. Perkins,
Thank you for coming to Mason-Rice. The presentation that you gave gave me a very good idea about how your life was when you were young. Your culture is so different from ours. In school when people didn’t talk to you for three whole months that must have been very hard for you.

When you lived in New York it sounds like it was very hard with no money to buy new shoes. When your shoes got too small for you, your mom was very clever to cut holes in the toe of your shoes so your foot could keep growing and you still had a pair of shoes to wear. When you were born, everyone cried because you were a girl. That must have been hard to understand what was happening. Your mom dressing you up as a boy must have been very embarrassing for you. Did any of your friends make fun of you?

Having to balance your two worlds of school and home life must have been hard. When your mom went to the store and asked much are these vegetables and the lady could not understand her and you had to translate for her, was this something that you had to do very often? In school when the person said that the bullies wouldn’t hurt you because they thought that you would do some Kung Fu on them did that make you feel safe from the bullies? After three months of people not talking to you, when they did, did they make fun of you for being different?

I found it very interesting when you told us about dowries and how your parents saved up gold and other precious things to give to the boy that you will marry. I loved smelling all of the Indian spices. They reminded me of Indian cooking. I think that it is great the way you continue your culture even when you lived in California. I remember the sari that Ms. Reed put on. It was a beautiful color and the shirt Mr. Daniels wore was also very nice.

Thank you again form coming to our school. I found it very interesting to learn about what happened in your life. I would like to read one of your books very soon.

Thank you,
Liadh T.

Dear Mitali Perkins,
My name is Will. I am a Colombian immigrant. I was adopted and I came to the United States when I was 2 months old. I have one sister and no brothers. My parents cried when I was born because I was so handsome! But then I threw up on my Dad!!:-)

Thank you for the good presentation. I learned a lot about India, like you have to pay a dowry to the man’s side when you get married and that there was a war in India between Hindus and Muslims.

My family knows a lot about Hindu culture because my sister does Indian dance. I know some of the Hindu gods like, Shiva, Ganesha, Krishna and Brahma. Last year my sister had an orangetram. Thanks again for coming to our school.
Will H.

Dear Ms. Perkins,
Thanks for coming , first of all. Your talk was great. I liked the part when we smelled the spices. I understood the differences like the food, clothes and accents.

It was funny when you were in the pictures from movies with characters.
I am very interested in sports. I wonder what kind of sports they play in India.
When you eat why is it only with your right hand?

Is it scary coming to a new country? How do you adjust to a new country? I would have cried if my parents told me they cried when I was born. About the fact that your parents cried when they found out you were a girl. I have two brothers and no sisters and my mom always wished for a girl, so I’ve got a girl dog. How hard was it moving from India to New York to California? What was the hardest part about it?

I learned so much from your talk and I hope you will visit again.

P.S. Is the story about the Trekkies true?
Dear Mitali Perkins,
I saw your performance here at Mason-Rice School. I remember a few things like the food you ate, your childhood and some other differences between India and the United States.

I remember you said your mother made food from scratch. The spices made my eyes water except for the yellow one but the black one made me sneeze.
When you were born did your parents really cry? I’ve never been in girls clothes. What’s it like being in boy’s clothes for you?

I can’t believe Indians only ate with their right hands. I thought it was funny when the bullies wouldn’t pick on you because they thought you knew martial arts. It must have been hard for you to learn American manners that were different from your own.

I know how you feel because I moved here from Texas and I thought I would never make a friend. Do you think it was as hard for you? I might remember your performance for a long time.

P.S. There are a lot of letters coming from our class.
P.P.S. Stay safe!

Dear Ms. Perkins,
It was wonderful having you come to Mason-Rice. In this letter I will talk about your culture, immigration, and marriage in India. I will also be telling you about my own life. I hope you enjoy the letter.

Indian culture is amazing such as the clothing, food and customs. Saris are beautiful. So is the gold and accessories, such as hair clips and bracelets. I also think the customs are cool too like eating with your right hand and wearing a streak of red powder across your part if you’re married. Since you said Indian food is spicy I would probably like it because I love spicy food. I also like that you give the guest more and more food until they’re full. Your culture is awesome.

You are an amazing immigrant. You have moved to New York and California, and you wrote many books. Moving twice must have been hard. It was nice of you to translate English for your mother. I like the fact that you asked us where our family was from because not only did we learn about you but got to know more about one another. My ancestors came from Italy, England, and Alcase-Lorraine. You are a great immigrant.

Marriage in India is different, but cool. Like for instance men look at three photos and choose the most beautiful. How come they have an arranged marriage in India? I think that’s cool but I would also like to have a choice of who I marry. I would like to be Indian because when you get married the wife gets gold. My parents met at work. Indian marriage is so interesting.

In this letter I have talked about culture, immigration, and marriage in India, and talked about my own life. Without you coming in I wouldn’t have realized how important immigration is. You really made me think about immigration a lot more. I hope you come in again to read us some of your books. Thank you for reading my letter. I hope you enjoyed it.
Maddie R.

Dear Ms. Perkins,
I learned about your early years. I learned that you were born in India and that people in your culture think your mother should have given birth to at least one boy. Your family cried when you were born, being the third girl. They cried because women can’t work out of the house. That means men make the money. Just so your mother could feel like she had given birth to a boy she dressed you like one.

I was very interested to hear your immigrant life. When you talked about the differences between Indians and Americans, the way Indians dress, your early years, and your culture it made me think.

In India appearance means a lot to your culture. The type of clothes that Indians wear are saris which women wear and book a bit like a shawl and a black, light weight t-shirt which men wear. When you go to a dance party to show you are married you put a line of red powder which is called henna on the top of your head. When you watched the Brady Bunch you always wished your parents sounded like that because your parents sounded different from everyone else. In movies Indians are usually the bad guys because of their tone of voice. This is a bad stereotype. My mom has an English accent but it doesn’t bother me.

Some things that we both have in common are we are both female, we both have brown hair and we both weren’t born in Boston. I was born in Phoenix, Arizona and I lived there for five years. Then I lived in Philadelphia for a year and then I came to Boston so I know what it feels like to be new.

I feel like we’re quite alike . Not only have I moved before but I’ve lived three places just like you. When I first moved to Boston everyone knew everyone but I only knew one person who I had just met. If the children in my class had done a project in kindergarten or just anything I wasn’t there for I felt like I couldn’t be a part of their conversation though I was lucky to end up with great friends.

I think your culture is very interesting. I would never want my parents to choose my husband! What if you get in fights with the husband your mother and father picked? Do you have to stay as a couple? I thought the bracelets from your dowry you wore on each hand to show you were married are beautiful. Why did you have to wear a streak of red powder on your head to show you’re married when it would be easier to just show it by wearing jewelry. I think it’s really cool that you eat with your right hand and go to the bathroom with your left.

I would probably not like Indian food because I don’t like things that are spicy but I liked how we got to smell the spices. My family immigrated from Rumania, England, Germany, Austria and Hungary. My grandpa on my dad’s side had to leave Germany with his sister when he was 5 and she was 16 but their mother stayed with their grandma. They had to leave because they were Jewish.
The differences between us are the foods we eat, the clothing we wear and our skin color.

If immigration hadn’t been around I wouldn’t be alive and you wouldn’t think immigration is interesting and I would like to learn more about it.
I loved your presentation. Please write back.

Alexandra D.
P.S. What do you call your mother and father in India?

Dear Mitali,
I learned a lot from you when you came to Mason-Rice, my school, and gave your presentation. I learned about your Indian culture, your experiences and your books. I remember you dog’s name is Strider but I was wondering what were your ferrets’ names?

I think it’s really unfair that the men pick the women they want to marry and they never even meet each other. All the symbols women have are cool, a red streak on your part, bracelets on different hands and your sari not covering your face. I also think it isn’t fair that women have to save up their whole lives and give it all to someone they have never met! I think Indian clothing is really, really cool. I like being able to wear jeans but wearing Indian clothing would be just as cool. I can’t stand spices but Indian food still sounds good.
American culture is extremely different from Indian culture. We have dating, different varieties of food and other “American” things. We have different symbols of marriage, in fact, we only have one main symbol, a wedding ring. No as much of or food is spicy and we have marriages that both people want. I got the impression that only people who have experienced both places really understand the huge differences between them.

My grandparents came from Africa but they didn’t move to the United States. They moved to Canada. Then my dad moved to the United States. On my mom’s maternal side I’m from Ireland and from my mom’s paternal side I’m from Norway. I like all the places I come from and I’m glad I come from where I do.

Though I’ve never read your books I like the sound of them and I’m interested in researching my family’s past. I’ve decided it would be cool if I really understood more about what it’s actually like. You have personal experience. Why not read your books? Besides I loved your presentation so I bet I will love your books.

I want to visit all the places my ancestors immigrated form one day. I’m really glad I got to meet you and learn about Indian culture and your experiences. I had a great time when you came to Mason-Rice Elementary and I hope I get to read your books because they all sound interesting and I want to know more about where I came from.

Dear Ms. Perkins,
I loved your presentation. It taught me about differences, connections and crazy childhood stories. I really find your culture fascinating. Here are some of my thoughts.

You shared a lot of differences between Indians and Americans. I noticed how you talked about manners too. It’s cool how you use your right hand to eat and you can talk whenever you want. I have to pick the perfect fork for my salad and I hate the elbow rule. I heard how you used your left hand in the restroom. Instead of wasting good paper like Americans. When you went over to a friend’s house did they treat you differently than your friends back home?

You told us a story about your family weeping when you were a girl. You must have felt horrible. I can’t imagine what it would be like having your parents cry at your birth. Why couldn’t men make money in India? That story was depressing and extremely interesting.

You also made a ton of connections with me. I love spicy food. I could eat jalapenos for breakfast. And sweet tarts are one of my food groups. I’m youngest in my family too. You have no clue what your parents are talking about but they love and respect you a lot.

I hope you write back to my letter. I’m eager to see what you have to say. I loved the presentation. It made the school day interesting. Thanks again.

P.S. I feel bad for you. Trekkies liked you.