COMING TO AMERICA: Immigrants from Southern Europe by Gladys Nadler Rips

COMING TO AMERICA: Immigrants from Southern Europe

Email this review


Continuing the series begun with Immigrants from the British Isles (p. 145) and . . . the Far East (p. 146), this entry mixes generalized description with excerpts from first-person accounts by immigrants from Italy, Greece, Portugal, and Spain. As for this last group, ""we hardly ever hear about [them], perhaps because there have been so few. . . fewer than 300,000. . . . Spain is, however, directly responsible for the fact that an estimated 20 million people speak Spanish in the U.S. today."" The first Portuguese, Jewish refugees from Catholicism, ""founded the American Jewish community"" in Manhattan in the 1600s. The story of Italian and Greek immigrants follows a more familiar pattern, characterized by the sickening horrors of steerage passage and the difficulty in getting jobs once here--usually only ""pick and shovel"" work was available and newcomers were virtually enslaved by bosses or compatriot padrones. Though ""Greeks tended to save their money and set themselves up in small business"" and ""many struck it rich,"" and though Italian San Franciscan Amadeo Pietro Giannini's ""little dago bank in North Beach"" is now the world's largest, still between 35 and 40 percent of both groups returned home disillusioned with the land of opportunity. Perhaps this reminder that the immigrant experience was not a universal success story justifies this generally un-incisive--and, at times (as in the twaddle about the Mafia being ""only part of the story of the millions of Italians who came to the U.S.""), downright fatuous--rehash of familiar material.

Pub Date: April 1st, 1981
Publisher: Delacorte