In Their Own Words: Letters from Norwegian Immigrants

Solveig Zempel, Editor Norwegian-American Historical Association $39.95 (225p) ISBN 978-0-8166-1858-3
This moving collection of letters composed between 1870 and 1945 by nine Norwegian settlers keenly depicts the day-to-day experiences of immigrants in this country. Zempel, a translator and academic, has skillfully selected hundreds of letters addressed to relatives and friends back home describing the trials and triumphs of settlers ranging from a schoolteacher in the Midwest to a politician and gold prospector in Washington State. p. 129 While most of the immigrants don't regret coming to America (``America is no paradise,'' writes one, ``but it cannot be denied that it is a good land''), all of them work hard to survive, often moving from town to town--usually in the Midwest, where a large majority of Norwegians settled. The letters also reflect the immigrants' desperate struggle to maintain their Norwegian heritage; several apologize for having given their children American and not Norwegian names. One woman notes that she and her brothers in America were trying to save enough money to send home so that the family could at long last purchase a cow. Illustrations not seen by PW. (Oct.)
Reviewed on: 10/01/1990
Release date: 10/01/1990
Genre: Nonfiction
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