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Toward A Better Life

by Peter Morton Coan

Immigrants comprise nearly a quarter of the US population, a larger proportion than at any time since World War II. Of those, more than 10 percent are here illegally, and many more try to enter the country and fail. What motivates so many people to take great risks to come to our shores? This is a fascinating and richly illustrated oral history of the true stories of immigrants told in their own words. The book spans 120 years of the American immigrant experience in candid tales told straight from the heart. They range from interviews with relatives of Annie Moore (Ellis Island's first immigrant) and the Von Trapp family (made famous by The Sound of Music) to the inspiring stories of "The Dog Whisperer" Cesar Millan, master chef Jacques Pepin, and musicians Emilio and Gloria Estefan, as well as the dramatic tale of Carlos Escobar's harrowing trip north from Mexico in 1996 to create a better life for his family. Whether it's ordinary people doing extraordinary things or celebrities who chose America as their new home, the book offers a balanced, poignant, and often moving portrait of America's immigrants over more than a century. The author has organized the book by decades so that readers can easily find the time period most relevant to their experience or that of family members. The first part covers the Ellis Island era, the second part America's new immigrants--from the closing of Ellis Island in 1955 to the present. Also included is a comprehensive appendix of statistics showing immigration by country and decade from 1890 to the present, a complete list of famous immigrants, and much more. This rewarding, engrossing volume documents the diverse mosaic of America in the words of the people from many lands, who for more than a century have made our country what it is today. It distills the larger, hot-topic issue of national immigration down to the personal level of the lives of those who actually lived it.

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