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   ABOUT THE YEMENI AMERICAN YOUTHS

When we encountered the seven Yemeni American youths, they were all working at family owned businesses. Three brothers--Abraham (Ibrahim in Arabic), Kais, and Saleh--and their friends Mohamed and Hadram were busy preparing and serving hamburgers, fries, and a host of sandwiches at Elmer's Drive-In, a well-known fast food establishment that caters to a broad and loyal clientele in Delano. Driving several miles down the country road and across vineyards, fruit trees, and the California Aqueduct, we came to the small hamlet of Richgrove and Fastway Market & Gas owned by the Saleh family who lives in a house adjacent to the store. Inside, Rakan was working the counter as a steady stream of mostly Hispanic workers and other customers dropped in to buy essential groceries, beverages, and fried chicken, egg rolls, and corn dogs. The atmosphere was congenial and friendly and people hung around to talk to Rakan and his brother-in-law. Sometimes his mother or his sisters would come by to chat or lend a helping hand. In the town of Tulare, located some twenty miles north of Delano off Highway 99, we met Ali who works at Shop-n-Go, a Yemeni American-owned convenience store connected to a McDonald’s and a Chevron gas station. It’s a busy place and Ali was constantly on the move replenishing inventory and attending to customers at the cash register. His high school-aged brother works on the weekends or whenever he has time away from his studies.  

All seven interviewees are sons of immigrants. Their fathers either worked in the fields or in grocery stores. Their mothers tend to stay at home and manage the household and the needs of a large family. Five of the youths were born in Yemen and two in California. All are Muslim albeit those born in Yemen experienced and practiced Islam in a country where Muslims constitute a majority, while the others were raised in an environment where Muslims are a minority. At the time of the interviews, their ages ranged from 16-24. All went to Delano High School. Most aspire to continue their studies at institutions of higher education and pursue careers in business or the professions. 

Although we do not see any Yemeni American girls in the mix of interviews and oral histories, they too attend public schools and are striving to become socially and economically mobile. Many travel to Yemen to marry and return with their husbands to the United States to raise families. Others marry within the closely knit community of Yemenis living in the United States. To respect the wishes of the girls and their families who did not want to appear publicly on camera and subsequently on the Internet, the project refrained from soliciting and recording their thoughts, impressions, and opinions. Their stories are yet to be told.

We asked the Yemeni American youths to introduce themselves and answer a series of questions about work, school, education and career aspirations, their families, social life, religion, the foods they like, and about their identity.

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