The Immigrant Experience

In a nation of immigrants, picking 10 books about the immigrant experience is no easy task. One could plausibly argue that any book about post-Columbian America concerns the immigrant experience. Therefore, I established a few basic guidelines in order to make the job a little more feasible. Some of these, I think, rest on pretty solid ground. I have not, for instance, included any books on slavery.Read more »

The Tenement Museum

On Manhattan’s Lower East Side you can visit a haunting re-creation of a life that was at once harder and better than we remember

For many immigrants, moving to a new country is in ways like becoming a child again. Like children, they have few connections outside of their immediate families; some cannot speak the language well and are assumed to be ignorant and mute; they may have few skills or few ways to apply those skills. And like children, they feel strongly the pain of loneliness. The vast majority of American immigrant families, whether they came here in 1790 or 1990, have known this loneliness, but their descendants don’t know what that feels like.

 
 
 
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A Nation Of Immigrants

It’s a politician’s bromide—and it also happens to be a profound truth. No war, no national crisis, has left a greater impress on the American psyche than the successive waves of new arrivals that quite literally built the country. Now that arguments against immigration are rising again, it is well to remember that every single one of them has been heard before.

The uproar over Zoë Baird has subsided by now, and readers with short memories may profit by a reminder that she was forced to withdraw as President Clinton’s first nominee tor Attorney General because she and her husband had hired two “illegal aliens” for babysitting and housekeeping chores.Read more »

“Everybody Likes Italian Food”

A restaurant critic who’s a food historian and the fortunate recipient of an Italian grandmother’s cooking follows the course of America’s favorite ethnic fare in its rise from spaghetti and a red checked tablecloth to carpaccio and fine bone china

Should the Smithsonian Institution ever wish to display an example of a prototypical Italian-American restaurant, it could do no better than to move Mario’s, lock, stock, and baròlo, from the Bronx to Washington, D.C. Read more »