Jamie Ferguson’s “Something in Common” takes place in a small town in western Pennsylvania in 1910, where a young woman discovers she has more in common with a recent immigrant from Austria-Hungary than she’d realized.
“Something in Common” 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.
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“How long have you lived here?” Jenny asked Helen.
“Yes, in Pennsylvania,” Jenny said, reminding herself that the conversation had been her idea.
“Come in fall,” Helen said. She pressed her lips together. “I take boat from, ehmm…Fiume, go New York. Then train. Then Pennsylwaynya.”
“It’s actually Pennsylvania,” Jenny said. The Hungarian girl’s English was simply abysmal.
At least that was an improvement, if a slight one.
“Are you from wherever that place is? Fiume?”
“No, from leetle willage, in you say Hungary.” Helen glanced over at Jenny, then looked back at her stitching. “’Is you from Pennsylwania?”
“Yes,” Jenny said. “My grandparents came here from Ireland about fifty years ago. I was born in Connellsville.”
“Connellswille,” Helen said. Did all Hungarians not understand Vs and Ws, or was it just her? Helen began to say something else, then snapped her mouth closed as the bell on the shop door jingled.
—from “Something in Common” in The Golden Door by Jamie Ferguson
Jamie focuses on getting into the minds and hearts of her characters, whether she’s writing about a saloon girl in the American West, a man who discovers the barista he’s in love with is a naiad, or a ghost who haunts the house she was killed in—even though that house no longer exists. Jamie lives in Colorado, and spends her free time in a futile quest to wear out her two border collies since she hasn’t given in and gotten them their own herd of sheep.