In Adrianne Aron’s “The Envelope Trick,” an immigrant learns the very system that’s helping him in his new country is also hurting him.
“The Envelope Trick” appears in The Golden Door, a collection of stories showing the impact on people when they’re treated as “the other,” whether they’re immigrants to a country, a group of targeted within their own country, or something else besides. The title refers to Emma Lazarus’s welcoming words inscribed on the plaque on Statue of Liberty, “I lift my lamp beside the golden door!”
Tales of mistreatment of “the other” abound in historical or religious writings from around the world and through all time. But there are also plenty of examples of people helping each other, caring for one another, learning about each other. Sometimes in big ways, sometimes in small—but they all add up.
Find The Golden Door
“What have you got to complain about, compañero?” I ask my reflection, as I brush my teeth and feel my tongue rolling over the bottom row. Pedro’s tongue they cut out, because he spoke up for what he believed. My eyebrows match—both black, over brown eyes with lashes so long my mother used to say I should have been born a girl. Over there, they say things like that.
Yeah, my eyebrows match, but Rafa’s don’t. One of his, the left one I think, turned white, at the spot where the soldiers attached the electrodes. There’s guys at Guantánamo right now gone white all over. You’ve got to remember how everything’s relative, Sarita tells me.
—from “The Envelope Trick” in The Golden Door by Adrianne Aron
Adrianne Aron writes both fiction and non-fiction, with social justice as a persistent theme. Her writings have been published in a number of literary journals and anthologies, and have been awarded prizes by Able Muse, New Millennium Writings, Women on Writing, the Jack London and San Francisco Writers’ Conferences, and the California Writers Association. Human Rights and Wrongs: Reluctant Heroes Fight Tyranny, her essay collection about refugee asylum seekers, won the Sunshot Nonfiction Award and was published by Sunshot in 2018. She is the translator, from the Spanish, of essays by Ignacio Martín-Baró (Writings for a Liberation Psychology, Harvard University Press) and of Mario Benedetti’s play, titled in English Pedro and the Captain (Cadmus Editions). She lives in the San Francisco Bay Area and is at work on a novel, but continues to spend a little time with her “day job” as a liberation psychologist. She possesses a Ph.D. in psychology from the University of California at Santa Cruz.