Hasan Minhaj

Hasan Minhaj in a still from a video released by the Smithsonian Museum that shows how a book written decades ago about the U.S. immigrant experience finds relevance even today. (YouTube screengrab)

Who does America really belong to if not to those who have given the country their all? To find an answer to this question which reflects the current mood of immigrants in the United States, and to draw strength in these volatile times, look to Carlos Bulosan’s classic memoir, “America Is in the Heart.”

The novel was written in the ‘40’s by the well-known Filipino novelist and poet who spent most of his life in the U.S. Though it captures Bulosan’s Filipino American experience, its words still resonate with the greater immigrant experience today. And to show how, the Smithsonian Asian Pacific American Center released a short film Nov. 30.

The film, created by Frank Chi, features a passage read by Indian American comedian Hasan Minhaj, community organizer Ivy Quicho, and writer Junot Díaz – accompanied by footage from throughout the U.S. of some of the 45 million immigrants who have become Americans since the publishing of the book in 1946.

“We are America, and we do not take democracy for granted,” reads Minhaj. “We feel it grow when we are working together. Many millions of us are working towards a common purpose. If it took us several decades of sacrifices to arrive at this faith, it’s because it took us that long to know what part of America is ours.”

Quicho continues with: “Our faith has been shaken so many times, and now it’s put to question. Our faith is a living thing, and it can be crippled or chained by blasting away our personalities and keeping us in constant fear. Unless we are properly prepared, the powers of darkness will have good reason to catch us unaware and trample our lives.”

“There’s a lot of negative portrayals of the families who come to this country from all parts of the world searching for a better life,” Chi told NBC News. “Given the times we live in, I wanted to revisit Bulosan this way because we can all use a reminder that there have been other tough times in America, and we have persevered and become stronger as a people, and as a nation.”

“America Is in the Heart” describes Bulosan’s boyhood in the Philippines, his voyage to the U.S., and his years of hardship and despair as an itinerant laborer following the harvest trail in the rural West.

Watch the video here:

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