moment she lands in America, Fatima wants to see the Statue of Liberty.
It's pretty much number one on her to-do list (getting a job and such aside),
and she's completely undeterred in her goal, despite everyone claiming it's
just a lousy tourist trap. In her defense, Lady Liberty has stood as a symbol of welcome to immigrants
for generations, so it's not like Fatima—as an immigrant herself—is randomly
identifying with it.
Fatima and Mik take a boat ride to see the monument together, though, things
get choppy. Literally. The water is too rough and the weather too stormy to get
to the island:
An announcement came over the PA
system: Due to the inclement weather, we will be forced to turn the boat
around. This is as close as we get to Liberty today, folks. Take pictures while
you can. (21.36)
makes us think this isn't just about the weather. Fatima wants to see the
Statue of Liberty because it symbolizes freedom—in coming to America, she hopes
she'll finally be free, safely away from war and the troubles of her homeland. Instead,
though, she meets new trouble, mainly from immigration. In the country
illegally, her freedom stands on shaky foundation, and eventually crumbles when
Jimmi accidentally reveals her status to someone who turns her in.
like Fatima never makes it to the Statue of Liberty, so, too, she never makes
it to the life of freedom she dreams of in America. She's deported before she
can shore up her citizenship, sent back with just a glimpse of Lady Liberty and
just a taste of life away from the trouble she's grown up knowing.
until Fatima's on the plane home that she sees more than just the tip or toe of
the statue: "Fatima watched until the plane was closest to Liberty, and
then she closed her eyes so her Mother of Exiles would never fade into the
distance" (44.4). This symbol of freedom is her last mental image of
America, and she tries to preserve it in her mind forever, carrying her belief
in the hope and opportunity of America back to Africa with her, even though it
didn't materialize for her the way she once hoped.