As enlightening as it is entertaining: a worthwhile addition to the field of popular anthropology.

FROM ELLIS ISLAND TO JFK

NEW YORK’S TWO GREAT WAVES OF IMMIGRATION

A well-documented and scrupulously researched look at New York City’s two greatest waves of immigration.

Foner (Anthropology/Purchase Coll.) compares and contrasts the experiences of the largely Jewish and Italian immigrants at the turn of the century with those of New York’s current Asian, Latin American, and West Indian newcomers. Whereas only a minuscule amount of earlier immigrants were professionals, today’s represent every class and occupational background—from farmers and factory workers to physicians and engineers. In fact, over half of the Indians, Filipinos, and Taiwanese arriving on our shores today have college degrees (a larger percentage than white New Yorkers have). And whereas earlier immigrants who fled untenable circumstances were often viewed as heroes, today’s undocumented immigrants who have risked all and arrived illegally are often stigmatized and unwanted. Particularly interesting is Foner’s examination of the prejudice faced by members of both waves of immigrants. At the turn of the century, Jews and Italians were viewed as inferior “mongrel” races and, although higher in status than African-Americans or Asians, were deemed to be racial pollutants. Prominent social scientists wrote about the Jews’ innate love of money and the Italians’ inborn instability. Today it’s the darker-skinned immigrants—both West Indians and dark-skinned Latinos—who confront the most bias. Intent on shattering romantic, idealized stereotypes of earlier immigrants (whom she refers to as “folk heroes of a sort”), Foner consistently challenges the misconceptions that make the current immigrants suffer by comparison. Among these are the alleged educational successes of early immigrants, particularly Jews; in fact, during the early 1900s, few Jews attended high school and even fewer graduated. Less than one percent ever reached the first year of college. And while earlier immigrants were shamefully coerced into adopting American ways, today’s attend schools where their culture is celebrated as an element of a multicultural curriculum.

As enlightening as it is entertaining: a worthwhile addition to the field of popular anthropology.

Pub Date: Oct. 1, 2000

ISBN: 0-300-08226-6

Page Count: 320

Publisher: Yale Univ.

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Sept. 1, 2000

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The author's youthfulness helps to assure the inevitable comparison with the Anne Frank diary although over and above the...

NIGHT

Elie Wiesel spent his early years in a small Transylvanian town as one of four children. 

He was the only one of the family to survive what Francois Maurois, in his introduction, calls the "human holocaust" of the persecution of the Jews, which began with the restrictions, the singularization of the yellow star, the enclosure within the ghetto, and went on to the mass deportations to the ovens of Auschwitz and Buchenwald. There are unforgettable and horrifying scenes here in this spare and sombre memoir of this experience of the hanging of a child, of his first farewell with his father who leaves him an inheritance of a knife and a spoon, and of his last goodbye at Buchenwald his father's corpse is already cold let alone the long months of survival under unconscionable conditions. 

The author's youthfulness helps to assure the inevitable comparison with the Anne Frank diary although over and above the sphere of suffering shared, and in this case extended to the death march itself, there is no spiritual or emotional legacy here to offset any reader reluctance.

Pub Date: Jan. 16, 2006

ISBN: 0374500010

Page Count: 120

Publisher: Hill & Wang

Review Posted Online: Oct. 7, 2011

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 15, 2006

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A moving meditation on mortality by a gifted writer whose dual perspectives of physician and patient provide a singular...

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WHEN BREATH BECOMES AIR

A neurosurgeon with a passion for literature tragically finds his perfect subject after his diagnosis of terminal lung cancer.

Writing isn’t brain surgery, but it’s rare when someone adept at the latter is also so accomplished at the former. Searching for meaning and purpose in his life, Kalanithi pursued a doctorate in literature and had felt certain that he wouldn’t enter the field of medicine, in which his father and other members of his family excelled. “But I couldn’t let go of the question,” he writes, after realizing that his goals “didn’t quite fit in an English department.” “Where did biology, morality, literature and philosophy intersect?” So he decided to set aside his doctoral dissertation and belatedly prepare for medical school, which “would allow me a chance to find answers that are not in books, to find a different sort of sublime, to forge relationships with the suffering, and to keep following the question of what makes human life meaningful, even in the face of death and decay.” The author’s empathy undoubtedly made him an exceptional doctor, and the precision of his prose—as well as the moral purpose underscoring it—suggests that he could have written a good book on any subject he chose. Part of what makes this book so essential is the fact that it was written under a death sentence following the diagnosis that upended his life, just as he was preparing to end his residency and attract offers at the top of his profession. Kalanithi learned he might have 10 years to live or perhaps five. Should he return to neurosurgery (he could and did), or should he write (he also did)? Should he and his wife have a baby? They did, eight months before he died, which was less than two years after the original diagnosis. “The fact of death is unsettling,” he understates. “Yet there is no other way to live.”

A moving meditation on mortality by a gifted writer whose dual perspectives of physician and patient provide a singular clarity.

Pub Date: Jan. 19, 2016

ISBN: 978-0-8129-8840-6

Page Count: 248

Publisher: Random House

Review Posted Online: Sept. 30, 2015

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Oct. 15, 2015

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