HOW I BECAME AN AMERICAN by Karin Gundisch

HOW I BECAME AN AMERICAN

by , translated by
Age Range: 9 - 12

KIRKUS REVIEW

During the early days of the 20th century, Mama asks Johann to write the story of their journey from Germany to America because she wants all the children to remember everything they lived through. Describing the entire process in vivid detail, Johann tells of his family’s life in their village in Austria-Hungary, and their decision to emigrate. Papa leaves first and they wait anxiously for him to send money so they can join him. Others have gone with such promises, never to be heard from again. When they finally take their leave, they must travel many miles by train before reaching the ship. Then comes the long journey in steerage with all its hardships and tragedies. Adjusting to life in Youngstown, Ohio, is not easy for any of them. It is an ever-changing, confusing kaleidoscope of economic opportunities and disappointments, dwelling places, and decisions. As was common in immigrant families, the children find themselves more accepting of this new American culture, while the parents are slower to adapt. Johann’s description of his sister Regina’s first attempt at dressing American-style to attend a dance and still adhere at least a little to her parents’ traditions is both poignant and amusing. Gündisch’s technique of telling the story from the point of view of a growing child is successful here. Johann’s perceptions change and grow as he matures. It also helps to overcome Skofield’s somewhat stiff translation, if the reader accepts that it is written by a child unsure of his English. Gündisch’s research and use of primary sources serves her well; the result is believable, interesting, and entertaining. (Fiction. 9-12)

Pub Date: Nov. 1st, 2001
ISBN: 0-8126-4875-7
Page count: 128pp
Publisher: Cricket
Review Posted Online:
Kirkus Reviews Issue: Nov. 1st, 2001




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