TODAY'S IMMIGRANTS, THEIR STORIES: A New Look at the Newest Americans by Thomas & Betty Boyd Caroli Kessner

TODAY'S IMMIGRANTS, THEIR STORIES: A New Look at the Newest Americans

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KIRKUS REVIEW

An oddly choppy book containing immigrant interviews, reviews of policy, and cursory summaries of historical background (the Incan civilization gets one page). Professors Kessner and Caroli (City University of New York) focus on New York City because it attracts one-fifth of the approximately 1,000 daily arrivals to the States and because it has attracted similar large numbers of immigrants throughout the century. ""Other cities stopped receiving newcomers in the first quarter of the century. . . . New York was never given an extended breathing space."" Yet, even those familiar with the city and its people will gain only a disjointed sense of these newest immigrants. Indeed, there is no true ethnic geography here. Instead, the life stories of Korean greengrocers, Vietnamese boat-people, and (for contrast) a Russian-Jewish systems-analyst are interspersed with, and interrupted by, explanations of immigration policy. Yet we gain no overall understanding of the policy and even less sense of the people: the parting shots, in particular, baffle rather than illuminate. The Honduran laboratory technician is last seen attending a concert where Spanish songs she has composed will be performed: ""The hall is full of Gloria's friends, some of whom have known her for fifteen years. Yet none of them knows quite what Dr. Martinez's daughter is thinking."" The stylishly-groomed Peruvian cafeteria worker rides off in a taxi: ""Occasionally she looks left or right but mostly she keeps her eyes straight ahead. She never looks back."" Indeed, only when the authors turn to more analytical examination of the illegal alien conundrum do policy and people mesh, and the young (almost deported) Spaniard appears justfiied in complaining that ""Lawyers drive Immigration a bit and Immigration drives the lawyers. We are out. We are the ball in the game."" Neither a convincing portrait of how an immigration policy shapes a population (see Longtime Californ', by Victor and Brett De Bary) nor a solid collection of immigrant interviews (see American Mosaic, by loan Morrison & Charlotte F. Zabrisky). Some interesting tidbits, but that's all there's to it.

Pub Date: Oct. 1st, 1981
ISBN: 0195032705
Publisher: Oxford Univ. Press