As enlightening as it is entertaining: a worthwhile addition to the field of popular anthropology.

FROM ELLIS ISLAND TO JFK

NEW YORK’S TWO GREAT WAVES OF IMMIGRATION

A well-documented and scrupulously researched look at New York City’s two greatest waves of immigration.

Foner (Anthropology/Purchase Coll.) compares and contrasts the experiences of the largely Jewish and Italian immigrants at the turn of the century with those of New York’s current Asian, Latin American, and West Indian newcomers. Whereas only a minuscule amount of earlier immigrants were professionals, today’s represent every class and occupational background—from farmers and factory workers to physicians and engineers. In fact, over half of the Indians, Filipinos, and Taiwanese arriving on our shores today have college degrees (a larger percentage than white New Yorkers have). And whereas earlier immigrants who fled untenable circumstances were often viewed as heroes, today’s undocumented immigrants who have risked all and arrived illegally are often stigmatized and unwanted. Particularly interesting is Foner’s examination of the prejudice faced by members of both waves of immigrants. At the turn of the century, Jews and Italians were viewed as inferior “mongrel” races and, although higher in status than African-Americans or Asians, were deemed to be racial pollutants. Prominent social scientists wrote about the Jews’ innate love of money and the Italians’ inborn instability. Today it’s the darker-skinned immigrants—both West Indians and dark-skinned Latinos—who confront the most bias. Intent on shattering romantic, idealized stereotypes of earlier immigrants (whom she refers to as “folk heroes of a sort”), Foner consistently challenges the misconceptions that make the current immigrants suffer by comparison. Among these are the alleged educational successes of early immigrants, particularly Jews; in fact, during the early 1900s, few Jews attended high school and even fewer graduated. Less than one percent ever reached the first year of college. And while earlier immigrants were shamefully coerced into adopting American ways, today’s attend schools where their culture is celebrated as an element of a multicultural curriculum.

As enlightening as it is entertaining: a worthwhile addition to the field of popular anthropology.

Pub Date: Oct. 1, 2000

ISBN: 0-300-08226-6

Page Count: 320

Publisher: Yale Univ.

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Sept. 1, 2000

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The author's youthfulness helps to assure the inevitable comparison with the Anne Frank diary although over and above the...

NIGHT

Elie Wiesel spent his early years in a small Transylvanian town as one of four children. 

He was the only one of the family to survive what Francois Maurois, in his introduction, calls the "human holocaust" of the persecution of the Jews, which began with the restrictions, the singularization of the yellow star, the enclosure within the ghetto, and went on to the mass deportations to the ovens of Auschwitz and Buchenwald. There are unforgettable and horrifying scenes here in this spare and sombre memoir of this experience of the hanging of a child, of his first farewell with his father who leaves him an inheritance of a knife and a spoon, and of his last goodbye at Buchenwald his father's corpse is already cold let alone the long months of survival under unconscionable conditions. 

The author's youthfulness helps to assure the inevitable comparison with the Anne Frank diary although over and above the sphere of suffering shared, and in this case extended to the death march itself, there is no spiritual or emotional legacy here to offset any reader reluctance.

Pub Date: Jan. 16, 2006

ISBN: 0374500010

Page Count: 120

Publisher: Hill & Wang

Review Posted Online: Oct. 7, 2011

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 15, 2006

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Occasionally wonky but overall a good case for how the dismal science can make the world less—well, dismal.

GOOD ECONOMICS FOR HARD TIMES

“Quality of life means more than just consumption”: Two MIT economists urge that a smarter, more politically aware economics be brought to bear on social issues.

It’s no secret, write Banerjee and Duflo (co-authors: Poor Economics: A Radical Rethinking of the Way To Fight Global Poverty, 2011), that “we seem to have fallen on hard times.” Immigration, trade, inequality, and taxation problems present themselves daily, and they seem to be intractable. Economics can be put to use in figuring out these big-issue questions. Data can be adduced, for example, to answer the question of whether immigration tends to suppress wages. The answer: “There is no evidence low-skilled migration to rich countries drives wage and employment down for the natives.” In fact, it opens up opportunities for those natives by freeing them to look for better work. The problem becomes thornier when it comes to the matter of free trade; as the authors observe, “left-behind people live in left-behind places,” which explains why regional poverty descended on Appalachia when so many manufacturing jobs left for China in the age of globalism, leaving behind not just left-behind people but also people ripe for exploitation by nationalist politicians. The authors add, interestingly, that the same thing occurred in parts of Germany, Spain, and Norway that fell victim to the “China shock.” In what they call a “slightly technical aside,” they build a case for addressing trade issues not with trade wars but with consumption taxes: “It makes no sense to ask agricultural workers to lose their jobs just so steelworkers can keep theirs, which is what tariffs accomplish.” Policymakers might want to consider such counsel, especially when it is coupled with the observation that free trade benefits workers in poor countries but punishes workers in rich ones.

Occasionally wonky but overall a good case for how the dismal science can make the world less—well, dismal.

Pub Date: Nov. 12, 2019

ISBN: 978-1-61039-950-0

Page Count: 432

Publisher: PublicAffairs

Review Posted Online: Aug. 29, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Sept. 15, 2019

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