Identity, as defined by Jonathan Friedman, is positional and can be determined by one’s place in a larger network of relations (36). Live and Become depicts the life of a young, Ethiopian boy who travels across countries in search of his identity. After losing most of his family to famine and disease, Schlomo, his assigned Jewish name, moves to Israel as a replacement child of a mother who had lost her son. As his mother sent him away, she told him to “Go. Live. Become.” But become what? Completely unaware of what this meant, he is soon adopted by a beautiful family. This marks the beginning of his journey to finding his identity. In this essay I will explore the process that Schlomo undergoes to find his identity in a world completely different than what he is accustomed to. Through Schlomo and other examples of lost identity, I will dissect the process of finding an identity through culture, language and education, and religion.
One’s surroundings, environment, and people all play a role in one’s culture. Many immigrants, refugees, and in Schlomo’s case, adopted kids find that they need to assimilate to their new environment. Others find the need to remain loyal to their previous culture, and oftentimes run into problems with this (“Caught between two worlds”). Up until the age of nine, Schlomo knew nothing except a world of famine, disease, violence, and death. The transition to life in a developed nation was quite troublesome for Schlomo. Even after months with his new family, Schlomo still would not eat the dinner that was prepared for him. It took quite some time, and also few adjustments of the family, for Schlomo to feel comfortable enough to speak, eat, and play freely in his own home. Schlomo had dark skin, and the stigma of Ethiopians was that they came to Israel “to be fed”. Proving his health, motive, and his “true” religion became a daily struggle for both Schlomo and his family. Not only was Schlomo forced to lie about his past to escape Ethiopia, but he had to continually repeat this false past for his own safety throughout his entire life. During his time with his adoptive parents, he began to see a young, white girl. Even after several attempts at winning over the girl’s parents, they forbade her to see him. This caused a great deal of internal dissonance for him. Adapting to a family, a country, a religion, and a culture is unquestionably difficult for a young boy.
Since a language sticks with someone across cultures and boundaries, it is considered one of the most defining aspects of one’s identity. Language creates and breaks barriers between people, religions, and education systems. It is certainly one of the hardest facets of culture to pick up. Some immigrants never learn the language of their new environment, which ultimately places extra social pressures and discriminations on them. Schlomo quickly picks up on the new languages in his environment. When he first arrived in Israel, he was noticeably one of the...