Flashback Friday-Golden Door (2006)

For millions of immigrants, Ellis Island was more than the gateway to America. It represented the opportunities and freedoms that did not exist in their previous homelands.

In the 2006 movie, Golden Door, Salvatore Mancuso (Vincenzo Amato) is a poor farmer from Sicily whose wife has died. Together with his surviving family, they hope to emigrate to America. On the ship bound for Ellis Island, he meets Lucy Reed (Charlotte Gainsbourg) who hopes to enter the US as a Mrs. and not a Miss. They agree to marry. But when they get to Ellis Island, both Lucy and Salvatore are in for a rude awakening. Before they can leave the island and truly become Americans, they have to pass a series of examinations and hope that the customs officials are satisfied with the results.

Like many Americans, my immigrant great-grandparents were part of the millions who passed through Ellis Island. What I appreciate about this film is not just the entertaining narrative, but it sheds on the lengths that many went through so they could truly call themselves Americans.

I recommend it.


Encountering Ellis Island Book Review

The United States of  America has been described as a melting pot. The familial origins of our citizens, past and present, can be traced every corner of the world.

Between 1892 and 1924, millions of immigrants left the world and the families they knew for America.

Ronald H Bayer’s new book, Encountering Ellis Island: How European Immigrants Entered America (How Things Worked) follows the paths of various immigrants as they immigrated to America, dealt with the process of going through Ellis Island and settling into their new lives.

This book can best be described as an academic book. It’s meant for history and/or genealogy enthusiasts or someone who just needs to do research for a school paper. It’s not completely dry, but I wouldn’t label this book as a gripping fictionalized account of an early 20th century immigrant to United States. What I did like was that the author also focused some of the spot light on Angel Island. Angel Island is the Ellis Island of the West Coast.  While European immigrants faced less subtle discrimination and a myriad of questions on the East Coast, the treatment that Chinese immigrants received was outright discrimination.

Do I recommend it? In an academic sense, yes. Otherwise, no.

The Long Way Home: An American Journey from Ellis Island to the Great War Book Review

This coming Saturday is the 100th anniversary of the beginning of WWI. It was supposed to be the war that ends all wars and supposed to last only a few months. Instead it last 4 years, killed 9 million soldiers and forever changed the history of the world as we know it.

David Laskin’s 2011, memoir, The Long Way Home: An American Journey from Ellis Island to the Great War, chronicles a dozen men, all immigrants from the turn of the 20th century who fought for the Allies in WWI.  The men, whose stories were told represent a vast array of immigrants who sought freedom and shelter in America: Slovaks, Poles, Jews, Irish, Italians and Scandinavians.  These men were not seeking to join the military, they were often escaping required military conscription from the governments whose lands they had left. But they still joined the army, some gave the ultimate sacrifice for their new country.

I loved this book. David Laskin, as he did with The Family , tells the stories of these men as if they were fictional characters, not real human beings. Each man is brought back to life in full color. The details are vivid and rich.  The horrors of WWI are as graphic as any movie camera could reproduce.

I recommend this book.

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