Thursday, April 21, 2016

Immigration stories

            Immigration is a hot topic during this election year.  Explore the immigration experience by checking out these and other recent books from the Peter White Public Library.
            Whether escaping religious persecution, political oppression, the violence of war, or looking to further their economic standing, millions of immigrants have come to America. Destination America: the Peoples and Cultures that changed America by Charles Wills gives a detailed look at why immigrants leave their homelands, how they travel to America, and what they do once they arrive. It includes personal accounts, letters, diaries, photographs, statistics, maps and charts.  You can also find the accompanying PBS series Destination America at the library.
The Irish-American story, with all its twists and triumphs, is told through the improbable life of one man in The Immortal Irishman: the Irish Revolutionary who became an American Hero by Timothy Egan. A dashing young orator during the Great Famine of the 1840s, in which a million of his Irish countrymen died, Thomas Francis Meagher led a failed uprising against British rule, for which he was banished to a Tasmanian prison colony. He escaped and six months later was heralded in the streets of New York--the revolutionary hero, back from the dead, at the dawn of the great Irish immigration to America. Meagher's rebirth in America included his leading the newly formed Irish Brigade from New York in many of the fiercest battles of the Civil War--Bull Run, Antietam, and Fredericksburg. Twice shot from his horse while leading charges, left for dead in the Virginia mud, Meagher's dream was that Irish-American troops, seasoned by war, would return to Ireland and liberate their homeland from British rule. The hero's last chapter, as territorial governor of Montana, was a romantic quest for a true home in the far frontier.

             When the United States entered World War I in 1917, one-third of the nation's population had been born overseas or had a parent who was an immigrant. At the peak of U.S. involvement in the war, nearly one in five American soldiers was foreign-born. Many of these immigrant soldiers--most of whom had been drafted--knew little of America outside of tight-knit ghettos and backbreaking labor. Yet World War I would change their lives and ultimately reshape the nation itself. Italians, Jews, Poles, Norwegians, Slovaks, Russians, and Irishmen entered the army as aliens and returned as Americans, often as heroes to produce a sea change that affected the nation ever after.  In The Long Way Home award-winning author David Laskin follows the lives of a dozen of these men.
            The "friendly invasion" of Britain by over a million American G.I.s bewitched a generation of young women deprived of male company during the Second World War. With their exotic accents, smart uniforms, and aura of Hollywood glamor, the G.I.s easily conquered their hearts.  But for girls like Sylvia, Margaret, Gwendolyn, and even the skeptical Rae, American soldiers offered something even more tantalizing than chocolate, chewing gum, and nylon stockings: an escape route from Blitz-ravaged Britain, and an opportunity for a new life in affluent, modern America. Through the stories of these four women, G.I. Brides: the Wartime Girls who Crossed the Atlantic for Love by Duncan Barrett and Nuala Calvi illuminates the experiences of war brides who found themselves in a foreign culture thousands of miles away from family and friends, with men they hardly knew. Most persevered, determined to turn their wartime romance into a lifelong love affair, and prove to those back home that a Hollywood ending of their own was possible.

        Vietnamerica is superb graphic memoir in which an inspired artist/storyteller G.B. Tran reveals the road that brought his family to where they are today: Born and raised in South Carolina as a son of immigrants, he knew that his parents had fled Vietnam during the fall of Saigon. But even as they struggled to adapt to life in America, they preferred to forget the past--and to focus on their children's future. It was only in his late twenties that Tran began to learn their extraordinary story of survival, escape, and reinvention--the gift of the American immigrants' dream--passed on to their children. . When his last surviving grandparents die within months of each other, Tran visits Vietnam for the first time and begins to learn the tragic history of his family, and of the homeland they left behind.

            Kao Kalia Yang of the Southeast Asian Hmong people, was born in a refugee camp in Thailand in 1980. Her family was forced to flee the Pathet Lao, of Laos, who singled out the Hmong in retribution for their aiding of the Americans during the Vietnam War. With no homeland to return to and not necessarily welcome in Thailand, Yang's family took the opportunity to come to the United States and make a new life. In The Latehomecomer: a Hmong Family Memoir, Yang, a natural storyteller, chronicles her family’s journey as her family settled in St. Paul, MN.

            Son of a pastor and grandson of a voodoo priest, Wyclef Jean was born in the slums of Haiti but grew up in New York and New Jersey, eventually bringing his immigrant experience and multicultural background to a gritty hip-hop sound. As a child, he'd enhanced his poor English skills by learning to rap. He later went on to join the Fugees and gain musical acclaim with one of the best-selling hip-hop albums of all time. By 2010, dealing with his frustrations with the growing clownishness of hip-hop music, he was working to get back to the roots of hip-hop in expressing injustice when he learned that Haiti had been hit by a devastating earthquake. In Purpose: an Immigrant’s Story Jean tells how he rose from poverty to wealth, from obscurity to multiplatinum fame, and channeled his social consciousness by founding Yele, an aid organization that eventually garnered controversy as he considered a run for the presidency of Haiti. 

 --Caroline Jordan, retired librarian

No comments:

Post a Comment