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Through research, historical narratives, and storytelling, historian and author Joseph A. Amato demonstrates how Americans with mixed ancestry and common origins might produce truly extraordinary family histories as he follows his poor, obscure, and truly "mongrel" family through seven generations, revealing their place in the key events of America's past. Using powerful family traditions to clarify his personal connection to the larger stories of our nation, Amato advocates for the power of the history closest to hand in building personal identity and resisting mass culture.
Posted March 16, 2008
Amato has written an unusual, nay a unique book, that blends his substantial skills as a professional historian with the tools of the anthropologist, geographer, philosophy, and genealogy in order to trace the history of his family back seven generations. He writes of the struggle of his poor ¿mongrel family,¿ tracing their roots to Ireland, Prussia, Sicily, French Acadia and elsewhere, describing the difficult struggles against poverty, disease, wars, and discrimination, in a relentless but mostly futile quest for the American Dream. This is much more than a family history. It is a ¿bottoms-up¿ look at the underside of American history as generation after generation struggled to survive against great obstacles, moving inexorably westward in a largely failed search for productive farmland, and then in the twentieth century, joining the new migration to industrial cities in a renewed quest for decent wages and a modicum of security. Written eloquently, solidly documented, and well grounded in historical literature, ¿Jacob¿s Well¿ subjects Amato¿s ancestors to the harsh scrutiny of historical fact. This is a must read for those interested in a new type of family history, and for those interested in the plight of the American poor from early colonial times to the near- present.
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