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American Passage: The History of Ellis Island Hardcover – June 9, 2009

4.5 out of 5 stars 34 customer reviews

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Starred Review. Using a variety of primary sources, Cannato (The Ungovernable City) describes Ellis Island as a place and as an experience for the approximately 12 million immigrants who passed through it from 1892 to 1924. He follows its reincarnation as a detention center for wartime aliens and as a monument and museum, which he admits may celebrate uncritically "ethnic triumphalism" and upward mobility. Cannato writes that understaffing resulted in only perfunctory screening for mental, physical, and moral traits that might have made newcomers public charges, and he disabuses readers of the fallacy that examiners, rather than steamship officials or immigrants bent on assimilation, changed entrants' last names. With a focus on how "actual people created, interpreted, and executed immigration laws," Cannato maintains that regulation, which sometimes degraded into restriction, formed part of Progressive era reform and growing federal involvement to safeguard what was deemed the public interest. This measured book helps to place in perspective discussions—sure to matter to genealogists and those engaged in political discourse—of Ellis Island and the idea of immigration as a privilege rather than a right. Essential reading.—Frederick J. Augustyn Jr., Library of Congress
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“Mr. Cannato’s writing is vivid and accessible, and his approach is admirably even-handed.” (The Wall Street Journal)

“Historian Vincent Cannato appears to have overlooked nothing in telling the tale of the historic island, now a national monument. . . . Cannato is not only a meticulous researcher and historian, he’s also a lively storyteller. A rare combination.” (USA Today)

“Cannato does a masterful job of weaving together a slew of singular immigrant stories with the larger issues that surrounded newcomers. He gives us the politics, the health scares and epidemics, the crowding, the corruption and the public policy.” (The New York Post)

“Cannato navigates the crosscurrents of immigration since the 1700s, illustrating his tale generously with odd facts and highly readable stories.” (Associated Press)

“The story of America is one of immigration. By bringing us the inspiring and sometimes unsettling tales of Ellis Island, Vincent Cannato’s American Passage helps us understand who we are as a nation.” (Walter Isaacson, author of Einstein)

“Reading Vincent Cannato’s American Passage was an amazing journey into our nation’s immigrant past. Never before has Ellis Island been written about with such scholarly care and historical wisdom. Highly recommended!” (Douglas Brinkley, author of The Great Deluge)

“Immigration has long been a critical slice of the American narrative, and here, in American Passage, Vincent Cannato tells its story with great brio. From landing point to national Monument, from immigrants to interpreters, we see the veritable Babel of Ellis Island play out across the years.” (Jay Winik, author of The Great Upheaval and April 1865)

“To his great credit Cannato does not pretend to answer our tough questions about immigration, nor to find a ‘usable past’ in the history of Ellis Island. He just tells one heck of a story that oozes with relevance.” (Walter A. McDougall, winner of the Pulitzer Prize and author of Throes of Democracy)

“Although Ellis Island is about immigrants from far-away places, it is in fact as American as Thanksgiving and apple pie. This amazing story is recounted beautifully in Vincent Cannato’s well-written and evocative book, which will bring pleasure and profit to readers.” (Kenneth T. Jackson, editor in chief, Encyclopedia of New York City)

“Cannato resists the temptation to setimentalize Ellis Island. He understands that, now as then, immigration is an issue that leaves Americans uncomfortable and contentious, even as it continues to bring new blood and energy into the country.” (Jonathan Yardley, The Washington Post)
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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 496 pages
  • Publisher: Harper (June 9, 2009)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0060742739
  • ISBN-13: 978-0060742737
  • Product Dimensions: 6 x 1.5 x 9 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.6 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.5 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (34 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #807,548 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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on July 10, 2009
Format: Hardcover
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VINE VOICEon June 29, 2009
Format: Hardcover|Verified Purchase
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on September 25, 2013
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on August 20, 2009
Format: Hardcover
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