Book a roadmap for immigrants in America

DOVER — If this were 1966, the year Dr. Theresa “Tes” del Tufo moved to Delaware from the Philippines, she more than likely wouldn’t have been able to publish her new book “Behind the Golden Door: The Resilience of Today’s Immigrants.”

That’s because Dr. del Tufo was an Asian woman in the midst of the Vietnamese War at that time. She was often looked down upon and was rarely spoken to.

However, her resolve and resilience helped lead her out of those dark shadows and over so many of the obstacles she faced in life.

For Dr. del Tufo, a first-generation immigrant from the Philippines, times have definitely changed.

“I think to me the thing that rises to the top is really my resilience and the ability to adjust and recover from major challenges in life, like being a war child, losing my husband at an early age, moving to a country where I started from ground zero — I was nothing,” Dr. del Tufo said. “In the Philippines, I was a teacher. I belonged to a notable family.

Dr. Theresa “Tes” del Tufo

“People would look at me and they wouldn’t even talk to me because they thought I didn’t speak English and I moved to (America) during the Vietnamese War, so Asians were looked down upon and we all looked alike and they thought I was Vietnamese, so I wasn’t trusted.”

Despite all of that, she overcame.

And that’s what provided her with the inspiration to write “Behind the Golden Door: The Resilience of Today’s Immigrants,” which she believes can help immigrants today who are facing the same kinds of challenges that she did.

Dr. del Tufo will be holding a book signing and will also host a panel discussion on issues affecting immigrants on Wednesday from 4 until 6 p.m. at the Dover Public Library. She will have 35 books available for purchase at the event. It can also be ordered through Barnes & Noble and Amazon.

She has now written four books. Her first work was a technical book about how to achieve excellence in libraries while her second and third books looked at how to achieve happiness through difficult situations.

Her latest book is a compilation of interviews and the personal stories of a dozen ordinary immigrants from around the world and begins with Dr. del Tufo’s story herself.

It profiles the collective voices of the immigrants and shows how they were able to face and overcome the challenges of life in America.

“The purpose really is to get feedback and insight from them because they’re all ordinary immigrants and their insight of how to achieve their version of the American dream,” Dr. del Tufo said. “We wrote this book against the background of the current immigrants where there is a lot more negative response to people coming to this country, especially from Muslim countries.

“At the beginning we gave a background in terms of looking at the American national character and exposed some of the possible reasons why there is such a disconnect between what Americans say and think and sometimes how they behave. It seems to have been more visibly (difficult) since we’ve had the new (Trump) administration coming in with executive orders and all.”

Fittingly, the book’s title is inspired from a phrase from Emma Lazarus’s poem “The New Colossus” which is inscribed on the pedestal of the Statue of Liberty in New York.

The book’s cover features a quote from notable lawyer, philanthropist, business woman and immigrant Loida Nicolas Lewis that says “We are a nation of immigrants who continue to reanimate and revitalize this work in progress called the United States of America.”

Dr. del Tufo’s book isn’t exactly a dreamy-eyed look at the melting pot of cultures that make up the United States.

Rather, it is a sobering look at how things such as “rampant and open racism, sexism and xenophobia are plaguing immigrants as they try to achieve their version of the American Dream in today’s society.”

State Rep. Trey Paradee said the book packs a powerful message and “The stories of ordinary immigrants offer powerful testimonies to the strength, courage and resilience of the human spirit.”

Dr. del Tufo said the stories in the book can be viewed as a roadmap for immigrants as the authors examined and analyzed their diverse stories, then sifted through their inspiring narratives to find the golden nuggets that accounted for their success.

They then developed a replicable framework that could be adopted by any immigrant attempting to survive “the cleavages of race, religion, gender, economic and political power in America.”

“So we explore from the very beginning, talking about the American national character, the minuses and the plusses, and then interview immigrants so that we can help others who are going through a similar experience,” Dr. del Tufo said.

The very first chapter of “Behind the Golden Door” is the author’s personal story.

“My husband died at a very young age and I was widowed at 36 in Dover, Delaware,” she said. “I was also born during the Japanese occupation of the Philippines and my first memories were of hiding from the Japanese (soldiers) when I was like two-and-a-half or three-years-old.

“In the first chapter I’m talking about all of these challenges in my life and I look back and write about how did I survive? This might be something that I can share with others.”

Dr. del Tufo definitely did survive to tell her story, along with the stories of a dozen other immigrants from around the globe.

It’s not 1966 anymore.

Delaware State News staff writer Mike Finney can be reached at mfinney@newszap.com.

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