Migrants make their way

More than just a current event, the story of migration has been the human story.

book covers

Alanís Enciso, Fernando Saúl. They should stay there: the story of Mexican migration and repatriation during the Great Depression, tr. by Russ Davidson. North Carolina, 2017. 246p bibl index ISBN 9781469634258, $90.00; ISBN 9781469634265 pbk, $29.95; ISBN 9781469634272 ebook, $19.99. Reviewed in CHOICE March 2018

Recently translated for the first time, and with a foreword by historian Mark Overmyer-Velázquez, historian Alanís Enciso’s 2007 monograph offers a fresh (Mexico-centric) perspective of the historiography of a period that saw the mass Mexican reverse migration from the US back to Mexico during the Great Depression. In the period before this reverse migration, many hoped that the Mexican Revolution would correct the stifling economic disparities brought about for the vast majority of the population by the Porfiriato. But by the 1930s, it had become clear that “El Norte” offered better economic opportunity. The movement of migratory workers into the US had been massive, albeit more fluid than scholars have previously recognized. Alanís Enciso (El Colegio de San Luis, Mexico) describes how the Great Depression ushered in a new era of US immigration enforcement laws that ultimately forced more than 350,000 Mexicans living in the US (along with their family members) back to Mexico. The work provides an ironic contextualization of modern-day US immigration policies and adds a Mexican point of view into the historiography on this timely topic. Summing Up: Highly recommended. All levels/libraries. —M. C. Galván, California State University, Northridge

Calloway, Colin G. The Western Abenakis of Vermont, 1600-1800: war, migration, and the survival of an Indian people. Oklahoma, 1990. 346p ISBN 0806122749, $29.95. Reviewed in CHOICE December 1990

From 1600 to 1800, the western Abenakis of the area known today as Vermont suffered disruption of their culture from disease, from encroachments on their lands by Europeans and neighboring tribes, from intermarriage with white and other groups, and from the influence of the missionaries. The Abenakis were allied with the losing side during the French and Indian War, then subsequently lost the rights to their Vermont lands after the American Revolution. Despite their hardships, the resourceful Abenakis moved their family bands (the core of Abenaki culture) to other regions of New England, New York, and portions of Canada in order to survive. Still fighting for their rights, the Abenakis today inhabit Vermont and surrounding areas. This concise, well-written, and valuable addition to American Indian history also contains excellent maps, a glossary, and a historical chronology. Summing Up: Highly recommended. —D. I. A. Mihesuah, Northern Arizona University

Chin, Tung Pok. Paper son: one man’s story, by Tung Pok Chin with Winifred C. Chin. Temple University, 2000. 147p ISBN 1566398002, $59.50; ISBN 1566398010 pbk, $19.95. Reviewed in CHOICE April 2001

Tung Pok Chin was one of many Chinese immigrants who entered the US as a “paper son,” claiming fictive kinship with Chinese already residing in America in order to circumvent discriminatory immigration laws. This rare, engaging, and often poignant firsthand chronicle of Chin’s efforts to create a life for himself in the US while supporting his family in China effectively demonstrates how the continual fear of being exposed as a “paper son” and the changing social, international, and political developments from the 1930s through the 1950s fundamentally shaped Chin’s opportunities and experiences. His brief memoir also provides glimpses of the everyday lives of Chinese American workers, the politics within New York’s Chinese community, and the circumstances and expectations confronting those who remained in China. Heralded by K. Scott Wong’s fine introduction, this clearly written and accessible autobiography constitutes a rich resource for faculty and students interested in US social history and immigration as well as Asian American studies. Summing Up: Highly recommended for libraries developing comprehensive Asian American studies collection, or diversifying their collections in US social history, immigration, and labor. —K. J. Leong, Arizona State University

Coerced and free migration: global perspectives, ed. by David Eltis. Stanford, 2002. 447p ISBN 0804744548, $65.00. Reviewed in CHOICE December 2002

Back to the dawn of prehistory, many humans have either been displaced by some power, or have moved themselves because of some crisis or perceived opportunity. This outstanding collection, the latest in the impressive “Making of Modern Freedom” series, demonstrates clearly the many faces of migration. Spanning the 16th to early 20th centuries, and touching to some extent on all parts of the world, the 11 well-written and skillfully edited chapters review an impressive amount of literature and provide many new perspectives and telling insights. The essential focus is the contrast between “free” and “coerced” migrations in their physical, cultural, political, economic, and even psychological contexts. Authors are allowed sufficient pages to develop their themes in detail, and their documentation is impressive. Among the more intriguing contributions (although all are interesting) are studies of the epidemiology of migration, “transportation” of convicts from Britain and France, the cultural and economic impacts of the slave trade, internal migration in Russia in Czarist times, and the 18th-century arrivals of Irish and German migrants to North America as a prelude to the better-known waves of the 19th century. An invaluable contribution to a subject of increasing significance in the 21st century. Summing Up: Recommended for upper-division undergraduate through faculty collections. —J. R. McDonald, Eastern Michigan University

Cohen, Jeffrey H. Cultures of migration: the global nature of contemporary mobility, by Jeffrey H. Cohen and Ibrahim Sirkeci. Texas, 2011. 165p ISBN 9780292726840, $55.00; ISBN 9780292726857 pbk, $24.95. Reviewed in CHOICE April 2012

While there is much research literature in migration studies in the areas of economic and political forces, or the psychology of migration, Cohen (anthropology, Ohio State Univ., Columbus) and Sirkeci (transnational studies, Regent’s College London, UK) bring a fresh view, emphasizing the notion of a “culture of migration”–the understanding of social norms and cultural practices associated with migration. From an anthropological viewpoint, the book looks closely at the cultural beliefs and traditions that often affect migration, not only for those who migrate, but also those who remain behind. Drawing on case studies from a wide geographical canvas–from their own previous studies of Kurds in Turkey and Oaxacans in Mexico, as well as from studies on migrations in Europe, sub-Saharan Africa, the Pacific, and many parts of Asia–Cohen and Sirkeci marvelously detail the factors that “push and pull” the transnational and internal flow of migrations. In examining the nuances of what exactly prompts both individuals and households to decide to send members abroad while others remain home, this research is an important addition to the field of migration studies. Summing Up: Highly recommended. Upper-division undergraduates and above. —A. Cho, University of British Columbia

Contested childhoods: growing up in migrancy: migration, governance, identities, ed. by Marie Louise Seeberg and Elżbieta M. Goździak. Springer, 2017. 193p index ISBN 9783319446080, $59.99; ISBN 9783319446103 ebook, contact publisher for price. Reviewed in CHOICE September 2017

The timeliness of this book could not be more obvious. As millions of migrant persons, many of them children, pour across borders, few writers have taken the thoughtful investigative stance of what happens to them next as have these contributors. In 10 extremely well-written chapters, these authors explore patterns of international migration, the politics and policies that drive them, and, most importantly, the effect of this transitory narrative on the identities of the migrant children themselves. Written in novel, accessible, first-person fashion, the editors “speak” to readers in the clear, concrete prose of critical realism. Using primarily case studies, contributors narrate the tales of migrant children across the globe—from Pakistan to Norway, the South Sudan to the US, Vietnam to the Czech Republic. Highlighting field research but adding depth through analysis, contributors offer both close-up and wide angle views of migrant childrens’ experiences. This compelling text is a must read for anyone no longer satisfied with being merely a spectator in the migrant crisis unfolding in front of the world; it will help propel readers toward informed action. Summing Up: Essential. All levels/libraries. —J. C. Altman, California State University, Monterey Bay

Grossman, James R. Land of hope: Chicago, Black southerners, and the Great Migration. Chicago, 1989. 384p ISBN 0226309940, $29.95. Reviewed in CHOICE February 1990

With this well-researched and beautifully written study, Grossman makes an important contribution to scholarship on black migration to Chicago around the time of WW I. Grossman shows how resistance to southern racism laid the groundwork for the migration even before war production needs created the demand for labor that made the move financially viable. He stresses the key role of institutions within the black community (especially the Chicago Defender and informal social networks) that spread information about the attractions of Chicago and encouraged southern blacks to leave home. In this way, Grossman demonstrates that what previous scholars have considered to be a leaderless and disorganized movement was in actuality guided by a complex network of social institutions, individual decisions, and grass-roots leaders. In the second half of the book, Grossman concentrates on the community that southern blacks found–and helped to shape–in Chicago. He details cultural changes by looking closely at schools, work sites, politics, and public contacts between whites and blacks. The book succeeds in telling the story of the “great migration,” and it also illumines other important aspects of the community whose initiative and imagination it describes. Summing Up: College and university libraries. —G. Lipsitz, University of Minnesota

Grover, Kathryn. Make a way somehow: African-American life in a northern community, 1790-1965. Syracuse, 1994. 321p ISBN 0815626266, $39.95; ISBN 0815626274 pbk, $17.95. Reviewed in CHOICE June 1995

Unlike other local studies that tend to examine communities as if they were isolated from the rest of the US, Grover’s interpretation links the experience of one community of African Americans to the wider context of urban history. Grover, an independent researcher and writer, examines the various levels of accommodation and resistance by a small black community extant on the periphery of predominantly white Geneva, New York, from 1790 to 1965. Wills, inventories, newspaper reports, and an enormous body of evidence taken from manuscript census schedules form the basis of Grover’s study. Her prose is lively, but what makes this work significant is her ability to connect primary source material to theoretical discussions of community building, migration, segregation, integration, religion, politics, and African American culture. Her goal is to reconstruct a subtle outline of one black community, but her inventive research approach has important methodological implications for historians exploring similar locations. Also, Grover reprints the text from several oral interviews, and in so doing, fashions a valuable primary source for probing the black experience. This work adds texture and depth to the understanding of urban life for both blacks and whites. Summing Up: Upper-division undergraduates and above.—T. D. Beal, SUNY at Stony Brook

Schielke, Samuli. Migrant dreams: Egyptian workers in the Gulf States. American University in Cairo, 2020. 137p bibl index ISBN 9789774169564 pbk, $19.95; ISBN 9781617979736 ebook, contact publisher for price. Reviewed in CHOICE November 2020

Migrant Dreams considers the aspirations of Egyptian men who migrate to the Gulf in order to pursue a better life, exploring how their dreams—both realistic and fanciful—transform over the course of their lifetimes, migratory trajectories, and the changing political landscapes in Egypt and the Gulf. The book’s 15 chapters are concise, engaging, and ethnographically rich, each one following a different man’s story as he goes back and forth between an Egyptian province and a Gulf metropole over a span of more than 10 years. This narrative serves as a vehicle for asking questions about the relationships between migration and money, marriage, family, and faith. It offers a nuanced, intimate, and evocative portrait of the everyday lives migrants lead and how their labor is directed toward establishing new futures for themselves, their families, and their communities at large. Chapters masterfully incorporate theoretical insights into the stories and reflections that are intelligible and enjoyable to a broad audience. Migrant Dreams will make an excellent addition to any library and undergraduate or graduate course reading list, particularly those on global migration and capital flows, hope and subjectivity, or the Middle East. Summing Up: Highly recommended. All readership levels. —J. Alkorani, University of Toronto

Warren, Stephen. The worlds the Shawnees made: migration and violence in early America. North Carolina, 2014. 308p bibl index ISBN 9781469611730, $39.95. Reviewed in CHOICE June 2014

Exploring the relationship between indigenous movement and power, Warren’s welcome new study of the Shawnees shatters old myths regarding the mobility of Native peoples of the Eastern Woodlands during the late precontact and early contact periods. Taking aim at what he calls the “literary advantage,” by which colonizers justified the conquest of oral societies on the move, Warren (Augustana College) demonstrates that transience, far from representing an act of desperation on the part of Shawnee people, actually helped to perpetuate Shawnee civilization vis-à-vis the impositions of settler colonialism. Emphasizing the unique character of Shawnee history–specifically, long-distance movements to multiple locations in the Eastern Woodlands–Warren demonstrates that Shawnee history must be understood as both that of a coherent nation “shattered by colonial forces” and a coalescent community born subsequently out of that “despair.” Informed by the author’s ethnographic collaborations with contemporary Shawnee cultural authorities as well as by copious archaeological and documentary research, the book provides the most comprehensive history to date of the Shawnee people from their ancestral “Fort Ancient” cultural origins (ca. 1400) to the eve of the Seven Years’ War in 1754. Summing Up: Essential. All levels/libraries. —J. W. Parmenter, Cornell University