Welcome to the third post in the Bartlett Reads 2016 series. This year, our community-reads selection is The Namesake by Jhumpa Lahiri. This October, the community will come together to read the book, and attend events based on the themes in the book. Each week this month, we’ll feature books in some of the themes in The Namesake. What is it like to be an immigrant in other parts of the world? This list gives you some ideas.
“When I look back on my childhood I wonder how I managed to survive at all. It was, of course, a miserable childhood: the happy childhood is hardly worth your while. Worse than the ordinary miserable childhood is the miserable Irish childhood, and worse yet is the miserable Irish Catholic childhood.”
So begins the luminous memoir of Frank McCourt, born in Depression-era Brooklyn to recent Irish immigrants and raised in the slums of Limerick, Ireland. Frank’s mother, Angela, has no money to feed the children since Frank’s father, Malachy, rarely works, and when he does he drinks his wages. Yet Malachy—exasperating, irresponsible, and beguiling—does nurture in Frank an appetite for the one thing he can provide: a story. Frank lives for his father’s tales of Cuchulain, who saved Ireland, and of the Angel on the Seventh Step, who brings his mother babies.
Perhaps it is story that accounts for Frank’s survival. Wearing rags for diapers, begging a pig’s head for Christmas dinner and gathering coal from the roadside to light a fire, Frank endures poverty, near-starvation and the casual cruelty of relatives and neighbors—yet lives to tell his tale with eloquence, exuberance, and remarkable forgiveness. (publisher description)
America is famously known as a nation of immigrants. Millions of Europeans journeyed to the United States in the peak years of 1892–1924, and Ellis Island, New York, is where the great majority landed. Ellis Island opened in 1892 with the goal of placing immigration under the control of the federal government and systematizing the entry process. Encountering Ellis Island introduces readers to the ways in which the principal nineteenth- and early twentieth-century American portal for Europeans worked in practice, with some comparison to Angel Island, the main entry point for Asian immigrants.
What happened along the journey? How did the processing of so many people work? What were the reactions of the newly arrived to the process (and threats) of inspection, delays, hospitalization, detention, and deportation? How did immigration officials attempt to protect the country from diseased or “unfit” newcomers, and how did these definitions take shape and change? What happened to people who failed screening? And how, at the journey’s end, did immigrants respond to admission to their new homeland? (publisher description)
It’s the spring of 1938 and no longer safe to be a Jew in Vienna. Nineteen-year-old Elise Landau is forced to leave her glittering life of parties and champagne to become a parlor maid in England. She arrives at Tyneford, the great house on the bay, where servants polish silver and serve drinks on the lawn. But war is coming, and the world is changing. When the master of Tyneford’s young son, Kit, returns home, he and Elise strike up an unlikely friendship that will transform Tyneford and Elise forever. (publisher description)
An inspiring personal saga that explores the collisions of choice and history that led one unforgettable family to become immigrants In this groundbreaking work, Minal Hajratwala mixes history, memoir, and reportage to explore the questions facing not only her own Indian family but that of every immigrant:Where did we come from? Why did we leave? What did we give up and gain in the process?
Beginning with her great-grandfather Motiram’s original flight from British-occupied India to Fiji, where he rose from tailor to department store mogul, Hajratwala follows her ancestors across the twentieth century to explain how they came to be spread across five continents and nine countries.
As she delves into the relationship between personal choice and the great historical forces British colonialism, apartheid, Gandhi’s Salt March, and American immigration policy that helped to shape her family’s experiences, Hajratwala brings to light for the very first time the story of the Indian diaspora. (publisher description)
Petropolis by Anya Ulinich
Anya Ulinich delivers a funny and unforgettable story of a Russian mail-order bride trying to find her place in America. After losing her father, her boyfriend, and her baby, Sasha Goldberg decides that getting herself to the United States is the surest path to deliverance. But she finds that life in Phoenix with her Red Lobster-loving fiancé isn’t much better than life in Siberia, and so she treks across America on a misadventure-filled search for her long- lost father.Petropolis is a deeply moving story about the unexpected connections that create a family and the faraway places that we end up calling home. (publisher description)