Edited by Illan Stavans
Immigration is the essential American story. From London or Lvov, Bombay or Beijing, Dublin or Dusseldorf, people have come to America to remake themselves, their lives, and their identities. Despite political obstacles, popular indifference, or hostility, they put down roots here, and their social, cultural, and entrepreneurial energies helped forge the open and diverse society we live in.
The history of American immigration has often been told by those already here. Becoming Americans tells this epic story from the inside, gathering for the first time over 400 years of writing-from 17th-century Jamestown to contemporary Brooklyn and Los Angeles-by first-generation immigrants about the immigrant experience. In sum, over 80 writers create a vivid, passionate, and revealing firsthand account of the challenges and aspirations that define our dynamic, multicultural democracy.
In nearly a hundred entries-poems, stories, novel excerpts, travel pieces, diary entries, memoirs, and letters-Becoming Americans presents the full range of the experience of coming to America: the reasons for departure, the journey itself, the shock and spectacle of first arrival, the passionate ambivalence toward the old country and the old life, and above all the struggle with the complexities of America. Arranged in chronological order by date of arrival, this unprecedented collection presents a collective history of the United States that is both familiar and surprisingly new, as seen through the fresh eyes and words of newcomers from more than forty different countries.