Foreword by Barry Moreno
Chief Historian and Librarian for Ellis Island and
the new National Museum of Immigration
Preface by Stephen A. Briganti
President and Chief Executive Officer, Statue of Liberty–Ellis Island Foundation, Inc.
“A wonderful book that takes you up close and into the lives of America’s immigrants, revealing their hopes and dreams, sorrows and fears.”
Chairman of the Iacocca Foundation, former CEO and chairman of Chrysler Corporation, and founding chairman of the Statue of Liberty–Ellis Island Foundation
“A welcome reminder that the vast majority of today’s newcomers are tomorrow’s productive citizens and that they gravitate here for the same reasons their predecessors did for centuries.”
—New York Times
“Timely and wonderfully captures an important part of our country’s history.”
—Fatima A. Shama
Commissioner, Mayor’s Office of Immigrant Affairs,
Mayor Michael R. Bloomberg, New York City
“While the ethnic details and backgrounds of the people profiled in this book may be different, they all tell the same story. These stories, including my own, are ones of transformation, rebirth, and rediscovery. . . . My family and I had our American dream fulfilled. . . . The heartening stories in this book echo the words of Edward Kennedy: ‘the hope still lives, and the dream shall never die.’”
Original Ellis Island immigrant, 1930
Immigrants currently compose 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. In one extreme case, the body of a man from the Dominican Republic was found floating in a Long Island marina near Kennedy International Airport. He had fallen from the wheel well of a jet after stowing away.
What motivates so many people to take such great risks to come to our shores?
In this fascinating and richly illustrated oral history, author Peter Morton Coan has compiled the true stories of immigrants told in their own words. Toward a Better Life spans 120 years of the American immigrant experience in candid confessions 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 Cesar Millan (“The Dog Whisperer”), master chef Jacques Pépin, 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 through the voices of ordinary people doing extraordinary things or celebrities who chose America as their new home, Toward a Better Life offers a balanced, poignant, and often moving portrait of America’s immigrants, distilling the larger, hot-topic issue of national immigration down to the personal level of the lives of those who actually lived through it.
Organized by decade so that readers can easily find the time period most relevant to them, this rewarding, engrossing volume documents the diverse mosaic of America in the words of people from many lands, who for more than a century have made our country what it is today.
Pages: 379 pages (photos)
Shipping Weight: 2lbs
Peter Morton Coan is the award-winning author of Ellis Island Interviews: In Their Own Words, the definitive work on the Ellis Island immigrant experience, and the critically acclaimed biography Taxi: The Harry Chapin Story. His work has appeared in Time magazine, the New York Times, Newsday, Travel & Leisure, World Tennis, and
many other publications. He is the creator and principal owner of CoanBooks.com.