Bryan Caplan  

Bleg: The Most Quotable Immigrant Memoirs

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I'm looking for highly quotable immigrant memoirs. What are your top picks?

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COMMENTS (9 to date)
FlyinHawaiian writes:

"Ellis Island Interviews: Immigrants Tell Their Stories In Their Own Words" is a good resource.

Eric Anderson writes:

Are you looking for exceptional or representative immigrants?

Brian Dailey writes:

Check out "Tell Me How It Ends," written by a volunteer that helped connect immigrant children with legal respresentation.

BeingZinful writes:

Andy Grove:
1. The Life and Times of an American
2. Swimming Across: A Memoir

Frederick Nelson writes:

"Anything Can Happen," by George and Helen Waite Papashvily, Harper & Brothers, New York and London, 1940 and reprints. Outstanding read, with insight into immigration and attitudes toward immigration in the 1920s and 1930s, prior to World War II.

From a review written by John P. Marquand for the Book-of-the-Month Club news: "... Giorgi landed in New York, penniless, looking for a job. He was a worker in decorative leathers, particularly in the ornamenting of crop handles according to traditional designs. ... Giorgi, a master in the art of living, has no dull moments in his life. His personality glows through his easy, though broken, colloquial English, as he takes anyone who cares to follow him over his own American trail. Dishwasher, garage mechanic, restaurant helper, unwitting strike breaker, transcontinental tourist, automotive worker, small business man, inventor, farmer--he adjusted himself to all these occupations ... . Other readers may prefer Giorgi's party on the California beach, or his wedding feast, or his renovation of a Pennsylvania farm. ... "Anything Can Happen" is not a farce. Its humor is enriched by the high courage, the generosity and the good cheer that lies behind it ... [and] indicates how much we might gain as a nation by trying better to understand the tongue-tied strangers who land at Ellis Island."

Steve writes:

Here's something my immigrant grandfather-in-law said:

Gramps: "Do you hear how good I'm talking now? Well, when I came to this country, I couldn't speak a word of English."

Me: "But I thought you were born in London."

Gramps: "I was, but when I came here, I was only four months old."

Phil Watson writes:

Rose Tremain, "The Road home". Hard to excerpt from such a consistently interesting book.

Weir writes:

Rousseau. Burke. Paine. Marx. Steyn. Hitchens. Wilde.

Brecht on Los Angeles: "In Hell too there are, I've no doubt, these luxuriant gardens with flowers as big as trees, which of course wither unhesitantly if not nourished with very expensive water. And fruit markets with great heaps of fruit, albeit having neither smell nor taste. And endless procession of cars lighter than their own shadows, faster than mad thoughts, gleaming vehicles in which jolly-looking people come from nowhere and are nowhere bound."

Or Isherwood: "Many of its houses--especially the grander ones--have a curiously disturbing atmosphere, a kind of psychological dankness which smells of anxiety, overdrafts, uneasy lust, whiskey, divorce, and lies. 'Go away,' a wretched little ghost whispers from the closet, 'go away before it is too late. I was vain. I was silly. They flattered me. I failed. You will fail, too. Don't listen to their promises. Go away. Now, at once.' But the new occupant seldom pays any attention to such voices. Indeed he is deaf to them, just as the pioneers were deaf to the ghosts of the goldfields. He is quite sure that he knows how to handle himself. He'll make his pile; and he'll know when to stop."

Isherwood is as quotable as anyone who ever lived. Kundera. Conrad. Rushdie. Bellow. Nabokov. Hemingway. Henry Miller. Henry Kissinger. Hayek. Popper. Pound. Irving Berlin. Doris Lessing. Stoppard. Naipaul. Napoleon. Stalin. Che.

SamChevre writes:

I like The Americanization of Edward Bok, although it is best for quoting paragraphs, not sentences.


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