Selfie of smiling young man, in front of apartment building.

Stores Bring Familiarity

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By Allan Bush

My immigration story isn’t so much my own, but my mother’s. She and her family fled Iraq during the late ’80s to Michigan, to avoid conflicts in their country. That is when she met my father years later, and eventually started our family.

My mother was raised in Baghdad before fleeing, and came to the apartments above – and had her sister and many more family members and friends live within the same complex. Sterling Heights became known for the Chaldean community, which my mother, being Chaldean herself, made our family [sic!] try to have a slice of her culture.

In the years after leaving the complex, many more stores and services began to adopt Arabic language into their store fronts, and bringing products and goods into the stores. Sometimes she would tell us how certain stores reminded her of ones back home.

Store fronts in strip mall, many have text in Arabic in signs.
A shopping strip in Sterling Heights, Michigan features both English and Arabic text in store fronts, on Tuesday, October 8, 2019, Tuesday, October 8th, 2019.

The church we belong to, also did mass in her language, Arabic, and she felt more at home as the years have moved on [sic!]. Now living in Macomb Township, being further away from Sterling Heights, she mentions how she misses the convenience of those stores and the church being so close to our old homes – though we still have family in Sterling Heights, and she still visits regularly, to feel as at home as she can be in America.

Church, white walls, black cross on roof against blue sky
St. Joseph Chaldean Catholic Church is quiet on Tuesday, October 8, 2019, just outside the reach of Sterling Heights. Many families attend the Sunday mass that is done in both Arabic and English.

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