Readers are invited to recite the thoughts, fears and dreams of all those who came to Ellis Island as immigrants, workers and visitors.
It was a place for Lenni Lenape Indians to fish for oysters, a site for hanging pirates, a fort and, most famously, the entry point for 12 million immigrants from Europe. Now it stands as a National Park Service Monument. Swain provides brief historical background for each period and creates short narratives to perform that are based on letters, diaries, oral histories and print resources. Annie Moore from Ireland was the first to be processed. Many more came from Greece, Hungary, Bohemia, Italy, Poland, Russia, Norway, France and Great Britain. They faced health inspectors, photographers, strange foods, dedicated nurses, helpful volunteers and, finally, if they were lucky, the welcome promised by the Statue of Liberty. All of these experiences are captured in monologues or short playlets introduced by short contextualizing notes. Even children of families who came through other entry points will find resonance here. Copiously illustrated with photographs, illustrations and maps, this is a solid resource in an attractive format for those studying immigration and working on oral-history projects.
A poem in the voice of a National Park Service worker today says it best: “The sense that, / after all these years, / spirits live here, / along with all their hopes and tears.” (source notes, bibliography) (Historical fiction. 8-12)