NATIVES AND STRANGERS: Ethnic Groups and the Building of America by Leonard; Roger L. Nichols & David M. Reimers Dinnetstein

NATIVES AND STRANGERS: Ethnic Groups and the Building of America

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KIRKUS REVIEW

America, land of degradation. Purporting to highlight the contributions of ethnic minorities (i.e., everyone but the English) to American economic developmerit, this is instead a crude, cursory account of the all-around ""plight"" of Indians, blacks, and ""menial immigrant laborers."" English settlers, we're told, were invariably motivated by a ""drive for economic gains"" (""the desire for cheap labor and economic gain would dominate American society for centuries"") while other groups sought religious freedom or wished, blamelessly, to better themselves. Once here, ""Industrial workers labored for long hours for low wages, faced occupational hazards, and lived in crowded housing."" They also faced nativist pressures to conform and, in the latter 19th century, encountered violent prejudice (there was no single state ""where blacks or immigrants could feel secure""). But neither are the authors especially sensitive or enlightened. The Germans, they remind us more than once, had their beer halls, gymnasiums, and Christmas trees (""they were not an especially political people""), the Irish had politics (and otherwise ""worked like brutes at whatever menial tasks were available,"" though they also dominated ""lists of paupers and criminals""), the blacks had, yes, music, and the Jews had a chance to get an education. Also tossed into this mix of old and new stereotypes are the patient Basque sheepherders and the persecuted Mormons. Most nearly substantive are the sections dealing with Indian removal, demoralization, etc.--which, of course, have least to do with the alleged subject. Even for teenagers, there are far better books on the shelves.

Pub Date: Jan. 1st, 1978
Publisher: Oxford Univ. Press