Magazine article The New Yorker

The Mail

Magazine article The New Yorker

The Mail

Article excerpt

The Mail

Letters from our readers.

The Myth of Ellis Island

Janet Malcolm's Profile of the political television commentator Rachel Maddow mentions that her surname was "faked . . . by a nineteenth-century Ellis Island official who bestowed it on a family of Russian Jewish immigrants named Medvyedov" ("The Storyteller," October 9th). Genealogists dispute the common family lore that names were changed by immigration inspectors at Ellis Island. They did not create the records but instead worked with passenger lists that had been provided by shipping companies. Any mistakes, misspellings, or fabrications originated with the ticket-buyers and ticket-sellers. Many immigrants also Americanized their names at the urging of family, friends, employers, and immigration-aid workers.

Harvey Kabaker

Silver Spring, Md.

Understanding Myanmar

The violence and discrimination against the Rohingya, one of Myanmar's ethnic minorities, is disturbing beyond comprehension ("Fallen Idol," October 2nd). While much of the blame can be placed on the subject of Hannah Beech's article, Aung San Suu Kyi--the head of government and former human-rights icon--we are all at fault for taking too long to register that she was not who we thought. I lived in Myanmar from 2013 to 2016, and I saw Suu Kyi interviewed at the Irrawaddy Literary Festival in 2014. Locals, tourists, and expats stampeded the tiny hall where she was speaking, desperate for a glimpse of the saintlike figure. I remember feeling confused and cheated by Suu Kyi's responses to the interviewer's questions. She coyly dodged most political discussion of the country's ethnic struggles, and seemed intent on talking about gardening and cooking. It sounded very much like what one would expect from a figurehead such as the Queen of England--not from an icon of democracy. And, sure enough, after her election Suu Kyi became a smoke screen for Buddhist extremism and oppressive military rule. …

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