Study Guide

Immigrant Blues Identity

By Li-Young Lee

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Most of "Immigrant Blues" involves exploring a series of identities. Our speaker brings up a number of titles for the story of immigrant experience, and each one is a different crack at defining the immigrant experience, or identity. Plus, he seems to identify himself with his roles in relationships: as son, father, and lover. And finally, he wonders about his personal, existential identity. Are we our bodies? Our souls? Are we separate from others? These are some tough questions. No wonder our speaker's so befuddled.

Questions About Identity

  1. Is "immigrant" an identity? What is it about the experience of immigrating that would make it significant enough to be a way of defining yourself?
  2. How does our speaker present his identity as both father and son? Do you think our speaker defines himself primarily by his relationship to those closest to him? Or by something else?
  3. Why does our speaker bring up his confusion about body and soul? Do you think this is a question of identity for our speaker? And how does this concern about what it means to be human relate to the rest of the poem?
  4. Do you think all the titles our speaker mentions could be seen as identities of sorts? Can an experience be an identity, or do you need something else, too?

Chew on This

Our speaker relies on names and conversations to construct the "story" of who he is and how he relates to the world and the people around him.

Death, or rather the fear of it, is a big part of our speaker's identity.

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