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Black Identities: West Indian Immigrant Dreams and American Realities Hardcover – February 25, 2000

4.4 out of 5 stars 10 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews

Amazon.com Review

New York City, the melting pot of the United States, contains the nation's largest West Indian immigrant population. Since the immigration explosion of 1965, the Afro-Caribbean influx has impacted the social dynamic of the United States and its native-born African Americans, often with volatile results. Black Identities, an important sociological work by Mary C. Waters, explores the question, "How similar or different is it to be a black immigrant or descendent of immigrants in Brooklyn in the late twentieth century from what it was like to be an Irish, Italian, or Jewish immigrant in the earlier part of the century?" Waters interviews blacks from Jamaica, Guyana, Trinidad, and other islands and deconstructs the mutual myths, truths, allegiances, and distrusts between these communities and whites (as well as African Americans with deeper family roots in the U.S.). Among the stereotypes Waters addresses, the most dangerous one is the perceived superiority of Afro-Caribbeans to African Americans. She deflates this and other myths with a combination of sharp scholarship and dead-on analysis. --Eugene Holley Jr.

From Library Journal

It would be fair to say that most Americans are not aware of the wide variety of ethnicities that exist among the black Caribbeans migrating to this country. Determined to render visible Caribbean immigrants and their families, Waters (sociology, Harvard Univ.) undertook an exhaustive research project. Here she compares Jamaican, Barbadian, Trinidadian, and Guyanese immigrants to their Irish and Italian counterparts of the turn of the last century, and because the issue of race so strongly shapes everyday life for people of color in this society, she examines the relationships between (and differences among) American blacks and black Caribbean immigrants. Drawing from interviews with several generations of immigrants, Waters reports a wide range of discoveries--including her finding that the Caribbean immigrants who resist Americanization are the most likely to succeed. An excellent history and a multifaceted analysis of current immigration issues, this book is recommended for academic and larger public libraries.
-Deborah Bigelow, Leonia P.L., NJ
Copyright 2000 Reed Business Information, Inc.
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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 432 pages
  • Publisher: Harvard University Press (February 25, 2000)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0674000676
  • ISBN-13: 978-0674000674
  • Product Dimensions: 9.5 x 6.5 x 1.3 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.8 pounds
  • Average Customer Review: 4.4 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (10 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #2,414,419 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

By Dr. Gabriella Kadar on May 10, 2008
Format: Paperback
because a great many of the interview subjects were teachers. I can see how the author would have found interviewing and possibly 'relating' to teachers in a more easygoing natural way. But the presentation of the views of others was not as extensive.

This book gave me some excellent information and probably insight into the experience of the West Indian black immigrant to a society that is predominantly white. Although I have lived and worked in the West Indies, I had not realized that for these people, coming from a society where black people run their own governments and decide on curriculum for students and everything else, in their societies, how difficult it is for them to live in a place where blacks are not a significant group as in the West Indies. I especially had not considered the culture clash between West Indian and American blacks.

The book is highly readable and very informative. The reason I gave this review 3 stars has to do more with what I would consider to be a preponderance of interviews of a population subgroup as opoposed to a general, random survey across the board of West Indian immigrants to New York.

Where are the delivery guys, the letter carriers, the car mechanics..... Or are they under-represented because they could be less articulate? Or is it just a comfort factor for the author to interview people who, although they are from a totally different cultural background, are at least familiar in that they are invovled with the academic? Or is it just easier to find teachers since they work in institutions? Whereas perhaps non-professional West Indians working in hourly wage jobs are difficult to influence to believe that the interview is just that and their privacy would be respected?
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By M. Yue on January 18, 2013
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
This book, which I read as part of a sociology course, awoke me to the struggles of people who I would have never thought about otherwise. I recommend this one.
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Format: Kindle Edition Verified Purchase
Interesting read on the experiences of black and immigrant experiences. Waters outlines the experiences of the blacks both immigrants and US-born with whites in the US.
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Format: Kindle Edition Verified Purchase
This was a required text for a class I took. The class was Sociology of Immigration, outstanding professor. Books like this should be standard reading in High School.
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Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
I have used this book to provide students with an introduction to the West Indian population. It is a very easy read.
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