History professor examines immigrants' stories in new book

Historians in the News
tags: immigration, Nativism, Tyler Anbinder, City of Dreams



A history professor has spent the past 15 years working on book to show the similarities in the stories of American immigrants throughout the last four centuries.

Tyler Anbinder, a professor of history, published a book last month titled “City of Dreams: The 400-Year Epic History of Immigrant New York,” which examines well-known characters like Dominican-American fashion designer Oscar de la Renta and Italian bodybuilder Charles Atlas who immigrated to the U.S. through New York. By comparing the prominent figures' stories with those of unknown immigrants, Anbinder said he hopes to show that immigrants across generations have similar experiences.

“[Immigrants] come for the same reasons,” Anbinder said. “They are treated the same when they get to the United States. They kind of have the same dreams. They come in particular because they want to improve their own lives but even more those of their children. And Americans are always weary of them.”

Anbinder said in his research, he noticed that Americans are always “weary” of immigrants and tend to blame them for their problems, even when immigrants are rarely the cause.

“It tends to be lack of familiarity with immigrants that breeds nativism, and I think that’s one reason that throughout most of New York’s history, New York has been very tolerant of immigrants,” Anbinder said. “If you live around immigrants you can see that they’re not so much the problem.”

Anbinder hopes to show readers America has had a complex history with immigrants, he said. But he said he thinks the book can speak to everyone in U.S. in some way through the stories it shares.

“One of the things I like about the book is that I feel like it can speak to people no matter what their own ancestry is,” Anbinder said. “If you’ve got an Italian-American background or Irish-American background, or even Dominican, Puerto Rican, Chinese, whatever it is, your family’s story is in the book.” ...




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