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The Long Way Home: An American Journey from Ellis Island to the Great War
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The Long Way Home: An American Journey from Ellis Island to the Great War

by David Laskin
 

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From the author of The Children's Blizzard comes an epic story of the sacrifice and service of an immigrant generation.

When the United States entered World War I in 1917, one-third of the nation's population had been born overseas or had a parent who was an immigrant. At the peak of U.S. involvement in the war, nearly one in five American soldiers was

Overview

From the author of The Children's Blizzard comes an epic story of the sacrifice and service of an immigrant generation.

When the United States entered World War I in 1917, one-third of the nation's population had been born overseas or had a parent who was an immigrant. At the peak of U.S. involvement in the war, nearly one in five American soldiers was foreign-born. Many of these immigrant soldiers—most of whom had been drafted—knew little of America outside of tight-knit ghettos and backbreaking labor. Yet World War I would change their lives and ultimately reshape the nation itself. Italians, Jews, Poles, Norwegians, Slovaks, Russians, and Irishmen entered the army as aliens and returned as Americans, often as heroes.

In The Long Way Home, award-winning writer David Laskin traces the lives of a dozen men, eleven of whom left their childhood homes in Europe, journeyed through Ellis Island, and started over in a strange land. After detailing the daily realities of immigrant life in the factories, farms, mines, and cities of a rapidly growing nation, Laskin tells the heartbreaking stories of how these men—both conscripts and volunteers—joined the army, were swept into the ordeal of boot camp, and endured the month of hell that ended the war at the Argonne, where they truly became Americans. Those who survived were profoundly altered—and their experiences would shape the lives of their families as well.

Epic, inspiring, and masterfully written, The Long Way Home is the unforgettable true story of the Great War, the world it remade, and the men who fought for a country not of their birth, but which held the hope and opportunity of a better way of life.

Editorial Reviews

Library Journal
Laskin follows 12 men, born in Europe, who emigrated to America, made lives here, and eventually found themselves in the American Expeditionary Force of World War I. They mostly left tight-knit communities of immigrants—Italians, Jews, Poles, Slovaks, Russians, and Irish—to fight in Europe, but they returned as Americans, a sea change that affected the nation ever after. Strongly recommended. [See Prepub Alert, LJ 11/15/09.]
Steven V. Roberts
[America is] never perfect, never static, never finished. We are constantly enriched by new blood, energy and ideas. As Barack Obama put it in his inaugural address, "Our patchwork heritage is a strength, not a weakness." In this compelling book, Laskin makes this same point by following the lives of 12 American doughboys who had been born in Europe and who then returned there to fight for their adopted country in World War I. It's an imaginative concept, and Laskin mines family legends and official documents to tell the stories of these ordinary foot soldiers from Italy and Ireland, Poland and Russia, Slovakia and Norway.
—The Washington Post
Publishers Weekly
At the height of America’s involvement in the Great War, nearly one in five of the 4.7 million Americans in uniform had been born overseas. Laskin (The Children’s Blizzard) chronicles the lives of 12 of these men who immigrated from Europe. The soldiers’ loyalty and pride in serving won them and their families the status of “real” Americans. Meyer Epstein, a Russian-Jewish plumber from New York’s Lower East Side, who had been living by his wits and muscle, was eventually awarded four Bronze Stars; marching with the American army through France was not much worse than his youth hauling junk around the shtetls of the Pale of Settlement with a horse and cart. Charming and fastidious Tony Pierro, a southern Italian gardener, drove horse-drawn supply wagons to and from the front in France, bringing munitions in and carting corpses out. Andrew Christofferson, drafted from his Montana homestead, was hungrier in the trenches in France than he’d been as a poor boy in Norway. This quietly absorbing glimpse of some of the brave soldiers who helped win WWI will appeal to history buffs. 16 pages of photos. (Mar.)
Richard Slotkin
“David Laskin’s The Long Way Home is a brilliant blending of social analysis and personal narrative, which recovers the experience of a ‘lost generation’—the immigrant ‘greenhorns’ who became Americans through service on the battlefields of World War I.”
Erik Larson
“Moving, revealing, and lovingly researched, this book is a must read, and a great read, for any of us whose forebears came from overseas-meaning just about all of us.”
Douglas Brinkley
“A riveting remembrance of the Great War by a master writer. David Laskin, by homing in on the lives of a dozen immigrants to Ellis Island, is able to tell a grand American saga about the true cost of democracy. All around a deeply compelling narrative.”
Joseph Persico
“Laskin’s tracing of young immigrants, figuratively and literally, from Ellis Island to the trenches of World War I France blends moving personal stories, sociology, culture and military history. The result is a marvelous evocation of what it means to become an American and the many paths to that end.”
Andrew Carroll
“Riveting. . . . With the epic history of the Great War as his backdrop, Laskin has vividly brought these extraordinary, colorful men to life and created, overall, an absolute masterpiece.”
From the Publisher
"[A] quietly absorbing glimpse of some of the brave soldiers who helped win WWI." ---Publishers Weekly
The Minneapolis Star Tribune
“David Laskin’s latest, The Long Way Home, reads with the heart-quickening pace of a novel as he focuses his gaze on a band of real-life characters who emigrated to the United States in the years just before World War I.”

Product Details

ISBN-13:
9780061233333
Publisher:
HarperCollins Publishers
Publication date:
03/16/2010
Pages:
386
Product dimensions:
6.20(w) x 9.10(h) x 1.60(d)

What People are Saying About This

Erik Larson
“Moving, revealing, and lovingly researched, this book is a must read, and a great read, for any of us whose forebears came from overseas-meaning just about all of us.”
From the Publisher
"[A] quietly absorbing glimpse of some of the brave soldiers who helped win WWI." —-Publishers Weekly

Meet the Author

David Laskin is the author of The Children's Blizzard, winner of the Midwest Booksellers' Choice Award for nonfiction and the Washington State Book Award. His writing has appeared in The New York Times, The Wall Street Journal, and Smithsonian magazine. He lives in Seattle, Washington.

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