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How I Became an American

by Karin Gundisch James Skofield

In 1902 in a small German town a traveler turns up singing songs about America. The land sounds like paradise, and young Johann Bonfert is excited when his own family plans a life overseas. They set out from a small town in Central Europe in search of a better life in America. But for ten-year-old Johann, the journey across the Atlantic to Youngstown, Ohio, is much more than a change of home and homeland. Johann's whole family is changing, with new jobs, a new language, and new struggles. Everything is different in America. Rich people want to stay thin, the milk cows have American names, and the very air, which at home smelled of hay and rain, here smells only of soot. But finally, as he writes about his new life and begins to realize just how far he has come, "Johnny" also begins to feel that at last he is an American. Through the plain-spoken, affecting voice of Johann, prize-winning author Karin Gundisch and celebrated translator James Skofield capture the stark truths faced by German-speaking immigrants and the heartening family bonds that saw them through--experiences as true today as they were a hundred years ago." This book is full of a young boy's thoughts and dreams and very interesting details about the way people lived in the United States and Germany over a hundred years ago. It contains lyrics of songs used to encourage and discourage immigration, short versions of German children's stories and a few footnotes.

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