California Dreaming

Where do you belong? 

This collection explored immigration and the notion of belonging and acceptance featuring writers from all over the world who have migrated from one country to another. 

Many immigration stories start in the same place, not physically, but metaphorically it’s the same. They start with a dream of otherness, of better. Whether it’s safety from persecution, freedom from poverty, fleeing from a war, crop failure or environmental disaster, lifestyle migration, family unity, religious belonging or seeking better opportunities in education or employment; whatever the motivation, much of the world’s migration starts with a dream of a better (however subjectively defined), life.

It’s the 1965 hit California Dreamin’ with its lyrics “I’d be safe and warm, If I was in LA”, that is the marching anthem for those longing for better. Serving as a metaphor for a restless generation, it became gospel for new thinking and marked the age of agency. So California Dreamin’ felt an appropriate title for a collection focused on migration and the search for new beginnings.

Whilst there is vast diversity in those who no longer call their bloodline nation home and a myriad of journeys and experiences of international migrants, the literature that reflects their tale is stagnant, limited and unrepresentative. All too common is the ‘fish out of water’ narrative, that focuses on escape from a stereotyped poor, third world country, and too many that pander to the West’s proposed blueprint of how immigrants do and should behave when they arrive on foreign shores. It was clear that many publishers don’t give the reading public credit in 1) being curious about different immigration stories and 2) wanting to spend money on these different immigration stories.

So here at Heady Mix we decided to share stories that look at themes of identity, at work that navigates the questions ‘Where are you from?’, ‘How and with where, do you identify?’. In the hostile climate of Brexit and borders built by walls, it’s never been more vital to listen and learn to as many tales of migration as we possible. We must explore how experience differs so greatly between each of those who’s ancestral home is no longer their own. Perhaps that is, and has always been, an essential part of the American dream.

“Many immigration stories start in the same place.

With a dream.”

  • Immigration
  • Belonging
  • Identity

About the book of short stories and essays

The California Dreaming Heady Mix anthology is a little different to some of the others you’ll find in our collections, and here’s why. We choose to focus on creative nonfiction, essays written in a literary style – memoirs, perhaps. For stories rich with motivations, identity and belonging, we felt memoirs created an even more illuminating and immersive reading experience than fiction.

So we made the decision to shift the balance, and publish an anthology that shares entertainingly told and beautifully absorbing real immigrant stories. In doing this, we hope our readers discovered the different, compelling and very personal reasons for migration and were able to understand the stories that make the journey of the immigrant more potent.

From Texas born Gretchen McCullough who, in her twenties lived in Egypt, then spent 5 years in Japan, before returning to the USA only to then be awarded a Fullbright lectureship that took her to Syria for two years. Gretchen documents how when did return to the USA, she found she had more affinity with the Middle East, having spent years away from her home nation. To 

Elaine Mar who emigrated from Hong Kong to the USA when she was five-and-a-half, but didn’t become a US citizen herself until the age of twenty-eight. She thoughtfully explains how she was caught and conflicted between a declaration that would force her to claim her heritage as Chinese or refrain from applying for US citizenship, and be assumed Chinese. Now, her explanation is more complex, ‘My US Certificate of Neutralisation lists my former country as Hong Kong. I am ethnically Chinese, but I am not from the political entity known as China’.

Two experience of migration that differ completely, neither contain famine, violence or poverty, but each explore the theme of ‘fitting in’ and how jarring that feeling can be. The California Dreaming anthology brings together stories from 10 women each navigating their own strange new world.

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