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American Passage: The History of Ellis Island Hardcover – June 9, 2009
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“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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Top Customer Reviews
The book goes through the entire history of Ellis Island, from its first incarnation as a place to hang criminals, through its various stages of immigration reception, through the many changes and renovations made to it, and finally to the tourist attraction (and national treasure) that it is today.
I had occasion to take my wife, two of my chilren, and my two granddaughters to Ellis Island a few years ago, and I was in awe of the place, and couldn't believe what my forebearers had to go through so that I could be there observing. Using the computers there, we were able to find my father's father, and my wife's mother's father, and learned how and when they arrived on our shores.
The book says that names weren't changed by officials there, but I tend to disagree. My grandfather's name was Appolinarious (sp?), but it was changed to Paul at Ellis Island. It's easier to say, because in Polish his name is pronounced much differently than it is written above.
We should all take some time out to see this place, and then stop to admire and thank our ancestors for having the courage to come to a new land and raise their families.
Of course, when his great-grandfather came, there were no tests for newly arriving immigrants, anyone who wanted to come could immigrate here (so long as they weren't Chinese), so saying he came legally is meaningless, and the Ellis Island immigration station did not exist.
In fact, if your ancestors came before 1892, they definitely did not come through Ellis Island.
But since so many people think their families got their start there, the truth may be less relevant than the perception.
I am always on the lookout for books on American immigration history, so I was happy to come across a new history of Ellis Island. American Passage, unfortunately, is only partially successful in telling the story of the iconic place of American immigration.
There are many ways to tell the story of Ellis Island. Vincent Cannato chooses to begin his telling with the story of feuds between various officials at the immigration station. Bureaucratic infighting is rarely interesting, and the fights among the big-wigs at Ellis are no different. The first third of the book is taken up with who said what to who sort of nonsense. Hardly a grabber.Read more ›
Cannato shows that the vast number of immigrants of the Ellis Island era, while not from the preferred parts of Europe like earlier immigrants, were by and large hardworking individuals who sought to have their own little piece of the American dream. The great struggle regarding which group should be admitted and which group should not is mapped out in epic detail. He also does a wonderful job at demonstrating the internal political struggles that beset Ellis Island during its peak years of operation.
Cannato also shows that not all the immigrants who came into the country during this period were of ideal motives. Where the book tends to drag is that it draws too much from leaders and senators and does not offer a balanced view by showing successful immigrants. However that does not stop this from being a very interesting story and an interesting read.
Most Recent Customer Reviews
really fascinating info behind the scenes at ellis island. Most Americans have at least some ancestors that passed through, so it is relevant to most of us.Published 2 months ago by M Kairey
It arrived in good time, packaged well, and I have read the entire book which is very long. I really learned a lot about the immigration issue in our country which is very... Read morePublished 6 months ago by Lois kenn
I intended to read this book as background research for something I am working on that involves immigration to America via Ellis Island in the early 1920s. Read morePublished 7 months ago by Fiona Veitch Smith
We recently took the grand tour of the Statue of Liberty, Ellis Island and the recently opened Hard Hat tour of the abandoned hospital on the southern, New Jersey sitde of Ellis... Read morePublished 11 months ago by Robert C Ross
This is a fantastic book that goes into serious depth about Ellis Island. As I'm teaching a class about Ellis Island soon at a family history doing, I found all my questions... Read morePublished 11 months ago by Nancy Kozlowski
Since I take groups of students here occasionally on field trips I thought it wouldn't hurt to learn a little more about Ellis Island, plus my wife's family came through there... Read morePublished 16 months ago by Ray Wishart
Mr. Cannato is an excellent writer. He keeps the reader interested at all times. If I am interested in the topic I would definitely buy any book (that I am interested in)... Read morePublished 16 months ago by Estrella Rosado