Reading/Interest Level: Intermediate, Young Adult
Author: Russell Freedman
Publisher: Clarion Books
The year is 1775. As Juan Manuel de Ayala of Spain explored the San Francisco bay for the first time, he had no idea that as he named "Angel Island" for the hospitality of the Miwok Indians, it would set a dark contrast to the discrimination, interrogation, and prison-like setting as the U.S. government began screening and detaining Chinese immigrants after the mass influx from the 1849 gold rush. By 1853, some 25,000 Chinese immigrants had reached the land in search of the American dream. By 1940 (the year Immigration Station burned to the ground) more than a half a million people from eighty countries had arrived at the "Ellis Island of the West," with countless being deported back to their home countries. This is the courageous, untold story of the brave men and women who painted and etched their poems and stories on the walls of the detention barracks, sometimes being held for months on end.
Freedman's book is an enlightening, powerful read of the immigration that occurred on the West Coast of the Untied States. As a contrast and companion to the European Ellis Island story, it is complete with stories of those western immigrants who suffered poor living conditions, medical inspections, stories of rough sea journeys, and heartbreaking family circumstances. Freedman writes in a tone and style without being graphic and presents the historical facts in a way that reads like a wonderful novel, even as to present the reader with current day information on visiting Angel Island. While technically an expository picture book, young adults will also love reading and exploring the poetry, pictures, and discovery of this prison-turned-National Historic Monument.