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The Long Way Home: An American Journey from Ellis Island to the Great War Paperback – March 15, 2011
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“Moving, revealing, and lovingly researched, this book is a must read, and a great read, for any of us whose forebears came from overseas-meaning just about all of us.” (Erik Larson, author of The Devil in the White City)
“A riveting remembrance of the Great War by a master writer. David Laskin, by homing in on the lives of a dozen immigrants to Ellis Island, is able to tell a grand American saga about the true cost of democracy. All around a deeply compelling narrative.” (Douglas Brinkley, author of The Wilderness Warrior)
“Laskin’s tracing of young immigrants, figuratively and literally, from Ellis Island to the trenches of World War I France blends moving personal stories, sociology, culture and military history. The result is a marvelous evocation of what it means to become an American and the many paths to that end.” (Joseph Persico, author of Eleven Month, Eleven Day, Eleventh Hour)
“Riveting. . . . With the epic history of the Great War as his backdrop, Laskin has vividly brought these extraordinary, colorful men to life and created, overall, an absolute masterpiece.” (Andrew Carroll, editor of War Letters and Behind the Lines
“David Laskin’s latest, The Long Way Home, reads with the heart-quickening pace of a novel as he focuses his gaze on a band of real-life characters who emigrated to the United States in the years just before World War I.” (The Minneapolis Star Tribune)
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Top Customer Reviews
As he did in _The Children's Blizzard_, Laskin makes vivid a sweeping story by focusing on a small number of individuals (in this case, 12 men). He begins with the immigrants' lives in Europe -- the Italian boy in a rocky farm, the Norwegian man who left the farm to work on a fishing boat, the Jewish scrap hauler in the Russian pale. And then he follows them on their journeys to America in the fetid barracks of steerage. On they go to their new homes: the copper mines in Butte, a blanket factory in New England, the Lower East Side. A couple of them enlisted long before World War I; one was part of Pershing's force chasing Pancho Villa (earlier he'd been a mercenary selling arms to Pancho Villa).
And then there's the military. The transition from civilian life was difficult. How could the Army train a crowd of recruits who spoke dozens of languages and were often malnourished and in terrible shape? How could the immigrants get past the ethnic slurs flung at them by the native-born soldiers? And what sort of soldiers would these immigrants make?
Eventually, they shipped out, fully trained or not, and Laskin takes us to the trenches and the shattered forests of the Great War.Read more ›
THE PASSAGE. The book provides a context for Meyer Epstein, one of the 12 characters of the book. A region of Russia called "the Pale" was where 2 million Jews left between 1881-1914, where there was a tradition called tzedakah where poor Jews took care of poorer Jews. Meyer was from the Pale. An Italian, Rocco Pierro, left Italy in 1890 to put up telephone poles in America. He commuted home to Italy every year to make babies (pages 8-13). In Poland, "word has spread that in America wages were 8 times higher than in Poland. So what if they had to dig coal out of the hills or work 12 hours a day next to a blast furnace." (page 18). After disclosing fun facts about the motherland, the author details the passage. We learn that ships for immigrants had automatic flushing toilets, because it was expected that the immigrants were too ignorant to know what to do with a toilet handle (p. 32). We learn about eye exams where doctors used a buttonhook to lift up eyelids to seek diseased eyes.Read more ›
Propinquity, for the most part, and the gradual erosion of old country customs and mores. But World War I speeded up the process. Almost every family had someone making that reverse journey back Over There to fight the Kaiser. The military was then, as it is now, a great leveler. And war is a great distraction. Who has time to keep up neighborhood hostilities or wonder if you were born on the Buda or Pest side of the river when there's a guy in a pointy helmet heaving mustard gas at you.
David Laskin uses the experiences of 12 men -- Italians, Poles, Slovaks, Jews, Irishmen and Scandinavian -- to show us how immigrants go from "them" to "us," milestone by milestone.
The first milestone is the voyage to America. Laskin gives us such a in depth look at the crossing, full of interesting trivia, it gets the book off to a great start. Next we look on as they fan out across the country to find work digging for coal, building railroads, doing whatever backbreaking menial job they could.
As each chapter unfolds, we witness a gradual Americanization, but the process is painfully slow.Read more ›
Most Recent Customer Reviews
This is one of the best books about Immigration and the Great War that I have ever read. Started book at11:00 at Night and couldn't put it down. Read morePublished 1 month ago by Dianne Kemerly McMahan
I recommend this, very enlightening read about the immigrant soldier and his contribution to the "war to end all wars."Published 4 months ago by shirley knobloch
Very well researched and written. It is not a history of the AEF during the war, but a well focused history on a dozen or so men who emigrated from the old world to the new. Read morePublished 9 months ago by J. Beaty
Unrelentingly grim. From the hardscrabble life in the Old Country; to the squalor of steerage on voyage to America; to the crowded tenements and dangerous mines; to the brutality... Read morePublished 9 months ago by El Gringo
It is an amazing book!!! The disks help you to get through it quicker.Published 11 months ago by April Scott
Ever heard of the Melting Pot Division or the Times Square Division? Is anyone interested in the background history of Maryland's Camp Meade where recruits of the Army of... Read morePublished 18 months ago by Hung-Tak Lee