An American in the Making: The Life Story of an Immigrant

By M. E. Ravage; Steven G. Kellman | Go to book overview

INTRODUCTION

When I hear all around me the foolish prattle about the new immigration—“the scum of Europe,” as it is called—that is invading and making itself master of this country, I cannot help saying to myself that Americans have forgotten America. The native, I must conclude, has, by long familiarity with the rich blessings of his own land, grown forgetful of his high privileges and ceased to grasp the lofty message which America wafts across the seas to all the oppressed of mankind. What, I wonder, do they know of America, who know only America?

The more I think upon the subject the more I become persuaded that the relation of the teacher and the taught as between those who were born and those who came here must be reversed. It is the free American who needs to be instructed by the benighted races in the uplifting word that America speaks to all the world. Only from the humble immigrant, it appears to me, can he learn just what America stands for in the family of nations. The alien must know this, for he alone seems ready to pay the heavy price for his share of America. He, unlike the older inhabitant, does not come into its inheritance by the accident of birth. Before he can become an American he must first be an immigrant. More than that, back of immigration lies emigration. And to him alone is it given to know the bitter sacrifice and the deep upheaval of the soul that are implied in those two words.

The average American, when he thinks of immigrants at all, thinks, I am afraid, of something rather comical. He thinks of bundles—funny, picturesque bundles of every shape and size and color. The alien himself, in his incredible garb, as he walks off the gang-plank, appears like some sort of an odd, moving bundle. And always he carries more bundles. Later on, in his peculiar, transplanted life, he sells nondescript merchandise in fantastic vehicles, does violence to the American’s language, and sits down on the curb to eat fragrant cheese and unimaginable sausages. He is, for certain, a character fit for a farce.

-7-

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An American in the Making: The Life Story of an Immigrant
Table of contents

Table of contents

  • Title Page iii
  • Contents v
  • Acknowledgments vii
  • Chronology ix
  • Introduction xiii
  • A Note on the Text xxxiii
  • Contents 5
  • Introduction 7
  • Part One - The Alien at Home 11
  • Chapter I - The Prophet from America 13
  • Chapter II - The Gospel of New York 20
  • Chapter III - The Exodus 27
  • Chapter IV - To America on Foot 31
  • Chapter V - Farewell Forever 38
  • Part Two - The Alien Abroad 45
  • Chapter VI - First Impressions 47
  • Chapter VII - The Immigrant’s America 53
  • Chapter VIII - "How Do You like America?" 58
  • Chapter IX - Ventures and Adventures 66
  • Chapter X - Purifications 78
  • Chapter XI - The Ethics of the Bar 86
  • Part Three - The Education of an American 93
  • Chapter XII - Shirts and Philosophy 95
  • Chapter XIII - The Soul of the Ghetto 104
  • Chapter XIV - The Tragedy of Readjustment 110
  • Chapter XV - The Trials of Scholarship 118
  • Chapter XVI - Off to College 126
  • Part Four - America of the Americans 133
  • Chapter XVII - In the Mold 135
  • Chapter XVIII - The American as He Is 143
  • Chapter XIX - The Fruits of Solitude 151
  • Chapter XX - Harvey 159
  • Chapter XXI - The Romance of Readjustment 168
  • Part Five - Postscript- Twenty Years Later 175
  • Chapter XXII - Jeanne’s Sentimental Pilgrimage 177
  • Chapter XXIII - And My Own 189
  • About the Editor 213
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