cover image City of Dreams: The 400-Year Epic History of Immigrant New York

City of Dreams: The 400-Year Epic History of Immigrant New York

Tyler Anbinder. Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, $35 (768p) ISBN 978-0-544-10465-5

Anbinder (Five Points), a professor of history at George Washington University, traces the history of New York City’s immigrant groups from the earliest Dutch settlers to the waves of Caribbean and Chinese immigrants who have more recently made their mark on the city, spinning a tale of tragedy and triumph that comes with political teeth. Anbinder adeptly shows that the same fears that dominate 21st-century debates on immigration were alive and well in earlier eras, arguing persuasively that 19th-century immigrant communities were far more insular and impregnable than their present-day counterparts. In fact, so discrete were these ethnic neighborhoods that a Jew leaving the familiar confines of the Lower East Side or an Italian venturing north of Washington Square was said to be “going to America.” Anbinder is a master at taking a history with which many readers will be familiar—tenement houses, temperance societies, slums—and making it new, strange, and heartbreakingly vivid. The stories of individuals, including those of the entrepreneurial Steinway brothers and the tragic poet Pasquale D’Angelo, are undeniably compelling, but it’s Anbinder’s stunning image of New York as a true city of immigrants that captures the imagination. Agent: Jill Grinberg, Jill Grinberg Literary. (Oct.)