Ellis Island: A People’s History

Małgorzata Szejnert, trans. from the Polish by Sean Gasper. Scribe US, $28 (400p) ISBN 978-1-950354-05-4
Polish journalist Szejnert delivers a kaleidoscopic history of Ellis Island told primarily through the accounts of immigrants who arrived there seeking entry into the U.S. Drawing on a wealth of primary sources including letters, memoirs, and official government records, Szejnert personalizes the era’s immigration statistics by foregrounding the experiences of people such as Ludmila Foxlee, a Czech immigrant who passed through Ellis Island with her family as a nine-year-old in 1894 and then became a social worker and patron of immigrant families; Paula Pitum, a disabled Russian Jewish girl whose family fought her deportation with the support of neighbors in Olean, N.Y.; and Ellis Island physician Victor Safford, whose personal reflections on immigrant racial types serve as an entry point into Szenjert’s discussion of the impact of racial classification on U.S. immigration policy. With fine-grained details and fluid writing, Szejnert humanizes the immigrant experience in late 19th- and early 20th-century America. Genealogy buffs and history fans will celebrate this engrossing portrait. (Aug.)
Reviewed on : 05/27/2020
Release date: 08/01/2020
Genre: Nonfiction
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