A New History of Immigration

Penguin Workshop. (True History). Aug. 2022. 160p. pap. $8.99. ISBN 9780593386125.
Gr 5-8–An accessible and frank primer on immigration in the United States. Dramatist and third-generation immigrant Backhaus pokes holes in the long-held beliefs that this is a “nation of immigrants” or a “melting pot.” Succinctly breaking down terms like settler colonialism, refugee, asylum seeker, nativism, and more, the author pulls back the veil on the often-racist policies that have determined who settles here and is allowed to build a life in this country. Many of these definitions are set apart in gray boxes that are featured within the body of the narrative, never breaking the flow of the text. Each chapter concludes with discussion questions that can be used in a classroom setting. Told mostly chronologically, from the genocide of Indigenous tribes to the enslaved people who were brought here against their will—who the author clarifies are not immigrants—to the European, Asian, and Latinx populations that arrived in the last 400 years, the work comprehensively details our complex immigration history. Backhaus also presents the current state of immigration, including coverage of the impact of COVID-19 and DACA, and the activists who are working hard to make sure that all people trying to enter this country have access to resources and human rights. Included are photos of tenement housing from the early 1900s; the Statue of Liberty; and Congressman John Lewis, who was a strong advocate for immigration rights. Sprinkled throughout are primary sources like firsthand accounts and reproductions of letters.
VERDICT A thorough and much-needed exploration of the truths behind U.S. immigration history. An excellent choice for collections.

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