WE WANTED TO BE FREE: The Stories of Refugees and Exiles in America by Frances -- Ed. Cavanah

WE WANTED TO BE FREE: The Stories of Refugees and Exiles in America

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The experience of emigration turns out to be a slender peg on which to hang this lengthy anthology of first person accounts; beyond it there is no unifying thread. Most of the contributors are 20th century refugees from political oppression who found sanctuary in America. Lest we think that this is the point, however, the collection begins with a fugitive slave's escape from the United States via the underground railroad. While a number of famous people -- Laura Fermi, Pablo Casals, and Maria Von Trapp -- are included, some of the success stories, such as the Armenian restaurateur whose rise culminates with an invitation to a stag dinner given by President Eisenhower, strike a dubious note. The similarity of subject matter and occasional flatness of amateur prose stifle the intrinsic drama; tales of dangerous escapes fail to generate suspense and humorous first impressions of America pale quickly. Rambling, simplistic introductions which tell less about the authors themselves than their more famous compatriots add little to our understanding. These selections are meant to complement and update Miss Cavanah's earlier We Came to America (1954), but, surely, out of all the contemporary upheavals, it must be possible to gather a less tedious congeries.

Pub Date: Oct. 1st, 1971
Publisher: Macrae Smith