The Backstory: Letters, Photos and Conversations

People have been asking me, “How did you decide to write the memoirs? What motivated you?” Well, it all started after my father passed away in 2010. As I mentioned in the book,my father, Albert Youssef Badre, could not come with us to Albany the first three years of our immigration. He had work commitments in Lebanon the first year; the next two years, he lived in the (Belgian) Congo where he was the economic advisor on Congolese Economic affairs to the then UN Secretary General, Dag Hammarskjold. When my father passed away at the age of ninety-eight, my sister Maria, who lived with my parents, went through his filing cabinet and found a considerable amount of papers and documents that he had accumulated over fifty years. Among these were a large collection of letters that my mother, my two brothers and myself had written to him between 1960 and 1963, our first years in the US. The majority of the letters were from my mother, who wrote to him at least once a week detailing the voyage by sea and telling him about our daily life in Albany.

After I read and reread all the letters and decided to start writing, I spent many delightful and enlightening hours conversing with my mother about our life in Lebanon and our American adventure. These conversations were at times bittersweet. Every time she would start telling an anecdote involving my father, she would weep. When she’d cry, tears would fill my eyes as well. My wife, Barbara, and I explored a large trove of photos from my parents’ files and albums as well as our own collection. Also, conversations with friends mentioned in the book, and visiting the cities we had lived in triggered precious memories. It was especially helpful to visit Albany and talk with my childhood friends Lorraine and Bill. The conversations with my mother, the photos, the friends and the cities inspired me to start writing, especially for my grandchildren and family.

The more I wrote and as the immigration narrative in recent years became front and center in the national discourse, I felt compelled to tell my story to all those interested in modern immigrant narratives. Everyone’s story is different and unique to them. I wanted to tell what are the obstacles to assimilation, language, cultural transition, and what to do to succeed. The result was I walked many paths but, I think, I found what I was looking for as an immigrant to America - a strong faith in the Catholic church, a career, and a family. My paths are all connected, and none could be possible without the others.


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