Angel Island

Ellis Island and the Statue of Liberty were important to  my family, where stories were told about my mother’s Irish and Danish relatives landing on U.S.A. shores.

As a Jersey gal for the first stretch of my child days, images of the outstretched arm and golden lamp were more tangible than other U.S.A. icons, say, for example, Mount Rushmore, or the Golden Gate Bridge.

Our collective U.S.A. heritage includes another immigration station, Angel Island. It is this Western shore processing area that a book including poems translated by Evans Chen, for ages 7-12, now visits. The historic poems by immigrants are presented by the noted non-fiction researcher/writer for young readers, Russell Freedman. I am grateful to know about it, through two librarians, known as The Nonfiction Detectives.

Listen up:

“For more than twenty days I fed on wind and tasted waves.

With luck, I arrived safely in the United States.

I thought I could land in a few days.

How was I to know that I would become a prisoner

                                                                             suffering in this wooden building?”

 

As The Nonfiction Detectives explains, poetry on forgotten walls led to this book. It was only through the interest of a California park ranger, Alexander Weiss, who discovered the priceless expressions and alerted the Asian community to rally to save the works, that the wider world now can know of them through this book.

The immigrants’ journey across the Pacific is covered in non-poetry text, along with the role of Angel Island. The RF trademark,  historic black and white documentary photographs, are counterpoint to some of the immigrants’ saved poems. Unique.

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2 thoughts on “Angel Island

  1. Coming from New Jersey we have very similar stories. Hanging on my wall is the paper that certified that my Swedish grandfather, his mother and brothers had been cleared through Ellis Island. My brother-in-law, Paul Rosenthal did all the interpretive writing for the refurbished Ellis Island, the stories retold by him in the signage that accompanies the displays, but as you say, the stories of arrival in America are myriad and some very sad. One that stuck with me was the culling of the unfit, who were marked with a chalk X on the back of a garment, and how one such reject got by when someone near her in line told her to turn her coat inside out. Good post!

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    • Adrian, the deeply felt family tapestry you share – has it made it into your fiction for young readers? I enjoy the family vignettes at Slow Dance Journal. I’m thinking how these stories might be a jumping off place for a historical fiction novel for your young readers. Just a thot…Thank you for reading & commenting here on Poetry Friday in Bookseedstudio. It’s always a joy to have you visit.

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