Little America Is a Beautiful Reminder of The American Dream
Apple TV+ delivers its best series yet.
A Chinese mother wins the family vacation of a lifetime. A French woman feels lost at a silent retreat. A Nigerian student embraces his inner cowboy. These are just three of the stories that make up Apple TV+’s new anthology series Little America, which brings intimate true stories of the immigrant experience to life.
The series was created by Kumail Nanjiani, Emily V. Gordon (The Big Sick), and Lee Eisenberg (The Office), who base each episode off of Epic magazine’s column which documents individual stories of the immigrant experience in America. The first season features eight half-hour episodes that delve into a different immigrant’s story. Some episodes span several years, while other several days. Each episode features a different writer, director, and cast, but share themes of alienation, hope, and the promise of a new beginning.
This series is beautifully written, artfully shot and performed, telling succinct stories in only 30 minutes. Each episode functions as an exploration of character, and despite its short run time each has the feel of watching a miniature movie. The episodes are authentic and deeply felt, thanks to a talented group of writers, directors, and actors, most of whom are immigrants themselves.
The series comes at exactly the right time in our current culture, when immigrants have been vilified by partisan politics. Thanks to republican fear-mongering and our deeply xenophobic president, immigrant antipathy runs rampant. Families are separated at the border, children are kept in cages. It is a violent rebuke of the promise of our country, of the American dream.
And the path to becoming an American is not easy for any of the characters in the series. They encounter racism, poverty, alienation, and cruelty. But each episode is buoyed by the power of hope. There are no easy answers and no instant winners in the series. There are simply ordinary people making their way through a strange land step by step.
Nearly every episode is a standout, but special props must be given to “Beatrice”, where Kemiyondo Coutinho plays a woman who leaves Uganda to attend college in the states. When she drops out of school, she reinvents herself by selling chocolate chip cookies, one at a time, on the street corner, slowly but surely building her bakery to become a beloved Louisville staple.
Another stunning episode is “Ai”, which tells the story of a Chinese mother who wins a free Alaskan cruise trip for her family but becomes dismayed when her children don’t want to spend time with her. The beautifully melancholy story unfolds slowly, giving us insight into an overbearing mother.
The series captures what is most integral to the immigrant experience: the ever-shifting balance between the place you come from, your culture, and how to reconcile it with the American experience. This series shows us at our best, our most complex, and is a stunning reminder of the promise and pitfalls of the American dream. We are all immigrants, and these are our stories.
(image: Apple TV+)
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