A Korean street child is adopted into an upper-middle-class suburban home. A Vietnamese monk dishes up fast food to fund a spiritual center. A woman saves for a home back in Ghana, where she will never live. All are immigrants to the United States, known to most of their fellow Americans only as statistics. The stories that statistics can't tell unfold in this book, in which twenty-three recent immigrants recall navigating the paradoxes, pitfalls, and triumphs of becoming Americans. Candid, evocative, and richly detailed, their oral histories comprise a compelling portrait of the changing face of the American population.
In venues from the San Francisco Chronicle to the New York Times, Ellen Alexander Conley's fiction has been hailed as "wonderful," "impassioned," and "memorable." Conley brings the same passion and skill to her depiction of our nation's most recent arrivals. These personal histories, along with Conley's thoughtful overview of literature on immigration, give us a firsthand sense of what it means to become an American.
A New York–based writer, Ellen Alexander Conley is the author of the novels Bread and Stones (1986), Soon to Be Immortal (1982), and Soho Madonna (1980).
“The 2000 census tells us, among other things, that one in five Americans is either foreign-born or is the child of foreign-born parents. Statistics don’t begin to tell their stories to those of us who greeted these new Americans as the came ashore. Ellen Alexander Conley’s study and tribute contains 23 accounts of hyphenated Americans.”—Dan R. Barber Dallas Morning News
"This is a thoughtful, engaging, and well-written manuscript, replete with often fascinating vignettes, aptly chosen and full of irony and paradox, about the immigrant experience in the United States today as lived and reported by informants who hail from nearly a score of countries from around the world."—Rubén G. Rumbaut, co-author of Legacies: The Story of the Immigrant Second Generation
"Ellen Conley does more than record the personal stories of new immigrants to our shores. By including testaments from people close to her family and in her workplace, she illuminates the positive ways these eager, industrious new populations have weaved themselves into the fabric of our lives."—Susan Brownmiller, author of In Our Time: Memoir of a Revolution
"This is a superb and moving book, filled with beautiful, sometimes painfully honest voices, addressing perhaps the most important question of our day - 'What is the real America?'"—Amy Chua, author of World on Fire: How Exporting Free Market Democracy Breeds Ethnic Hatred and Global Instability