The New York Times

Blending In

AMERICANS OFTEN WORRY WHETHER NEWCOMERS WILL ADAPT TO OUR WAY OF LIFE. BUT WE’VE NEVER QUITE DECIDED JUST WHAT — AND HOW MUCH — WE EXPECT OF THEM.

“The problem is,” my seatmate said, “they don’t assimilate.” We were about 30,000 feet in the air, nearly an hour from our destination, and I was beginning to regret the turn our conversation had taken. It started out as small talk. He told me he owned a butcher shop in Gardena, about 15 miles south of Los Angeles, but was contemplating retirement. I knew the area well, having lived nearby when I was in graduate school, though I hadn’t been there in years. “Oh, it’s changed a lot,” he told me. “We have all those Koreans now.” Ordinarily, my instinct would have been to return to the novel I was reading, but this was just two months after the election, and I was

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