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Publisher's Summary

Professor Vincent J. Cannato delivers a definitive history of America's landmark port of entry. From eyewitness accounts, Cannato weaves together a poignant testament to the hopes and fears of "huddled masses yearning to breathe free."
©2009 Vincent J. Cannato; (P)2009 Recorded Books, LLC

Critic Reviews

"Never before has Ellis Island been written about with such scholarly care and historical wisdom. Highly recommended!" (Douglas Brinkley, historian)
"Using a variety of primary sources, Cannato describes Ellis Island as a place and as an experience....He follows its reincarnation as a detention center for wartime aliens and as a monument and museum, which he admits may celebrate uncritically 'ethnic triumphalism' and upward mobility. Cannato writes that understaffing resulted in only perfunctory screening for mental, physical, and moral traits that might have made newcomers public charges, and he disabuses readers of the fallacy that examiners, rather than steamship officials or immigrants bent on assimilation, changed entrants' last names.....This measured book helps to place in perspective discussions - sure to matter to genealogists and those engaged in political discourse - of Ellis Island and the idea of immigration as a privilege rather than a right. Essential reading." (Frederick J. Augustyn Jr., Library of Congress, School Library Journal)

What members say

Average Customer Ratings

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  • Overall
    4 out of 5 stars
  • Roger
  • South Orange, NJ, United States
  • 02-22-10

Careful and nuanced

This is a thoroughly researched and balanced narrative. It describes the tensions between America's tradition of welcoming "tired masses yearning to breathe free" and the demands of national sovereignty. It explains how the balance struck between the two conflicting interests has swung back and forth several times during our history. The book also begins some fascinating discussions about the interrelationships between America's attitudes on race and immigration, between civil rights and the treatment of immigrants and between global human rights and the war on terror. Yet Cannato leaves most of these questions hanging, without the fuller analyses that would have made this a great book.

2 of 2 people found this review helpful

  • Overall
    3 out of 5 stars
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    4 out of 5 stars
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    3 out of 5 stars

Hard to focus

I really thought I would enjoy this book, but found it a dry recount of immigration law. I couldn't stay focused on it & eventually gave up. I may try again another time.

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    3 out of 5 stars
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    3 out of 5 stars

Overall interesting but a bit rambling at times

Narration is excellent. Story is overall good but author seemed to ramble rather far a field before circling back around to the central story. This is only troublesome due to the book's overall length making it daunting to complete. The epilogue is a bit preachy for me.