Anbinder (Five Points), a professor of history at George Washington University, traces the history of New York City’s immigrant groups from the earliest Dutch settlers to the waves of Caribbean and Chinese immigrants who have more recently made their mark on the city, spinning a tale of tragedy and triumph that comes with political teeth. Anbinder adeptly shows that the same fears that dominate 21st-century debates on immigration were alive and well in earlier eras, arguing persuasively that 19th-century immigrant communities were far more insular and impregnable than their present-day counterparts. In fact, so discrete were these ethnic neighborhoods that a Jew leaving the familiar confines of the Lower East Side or an Italian venturing north of Washington Square was said to be “going to America.” Anbinder is a master at taking a history with which many readers will be familiar—tenement houses, temperance societies, slums—and making it new, strange, and heartbreakingly vivid. The stories of individuals, including those of the entrepreneurial Steinway brothers and the tragic poet Pasquale D’Angelo, are undeniably compelling, but it’s Anbinder’s stunning image of New York as a true city of immigrants that captures the imagination. Agent: Jill Grinberg, Jill Grinberg Literary. (Oct.)
In publishing as in politics, timing is everything. Tyler Anbinder’s sweeping City of Dreams: The 400-Year Epic History of Immigrant New York scores big on both counts. A richly textured guide to the history of our immigrant nation’s pinnacle immigrant city has managed to enter the stage during an election season that has resurrected this historically fraught topic in all its fierceness.” —New York Times Book Review “The story of how those waves of millions cascaded upon American shores is told brilliantly, even unforgettably…while this is a New York story, it really is an American story, one that belongs to all of us.” —Boston Globe "Mr. Anbinder has provided a valuable service by crafting a single volume that focuses solely on New York as a gateway, a haven and a crucible that forged the fates of millions of immigrants who in turn shaped the destiny of our nation."—Wall Street Journal “City of Dreams is a rich, rewarding history of New York’s master narrative: the expansive story of the city’s immigrant past and present. It’s a necessary book for any reader — New Yorker or not — curious to know the astonishing sweep of transforming migrations that have made the city the polyglot extravaganza that it is.” —PHILIP ROTH “A masterful achievement, City of Dreams is the definitive account of the American origin story, as told through our premier metropolis. Bold, exhaustive, always surprising, Anbinder’s book is a wonderful reminder of how we came to be who we are.” —TIMOTHY EGAN , author of The Immortal Irishman “At last! A history of New York’s immigrant experience from Peter Minuit right up to the present day, meticulously researched and wonderfully well-written. City of Dreams will captivate readers and historians alike.” —KEVIN BAKER, author of The Big Crowd “Enlightening, impressive, and thorough, City of Dreams is a monumental endeavor: a great resource that fills in many historical blanks, and a riveting saga with something for everyone. And in these times of so much divisiveness and xenophobia, a necessary book, too. Tyler Anbinder reminds us that the dreams that brought my Dominican family to Nueva York are the very bedrock and foundation of this country.” —JULIA ALVAREZ, author of How the García Girls Lost Their Accents “Like the City of New York itself, Tyler Anbinder’s City of Dreams is a marvel — a work of astonishing breadth and depth that weaves many threads into a compelling whole. Anbinder’s vibrant narrative stretches from the Dutch of New Amsterdam to the Fujianese of Sunset Park, from the Draft Riots to the Crown Heights riot, depicting waves of immigrants who have overcome persistent nativism to transform the city, the nation, and themselves.” —T.J. STILES, author of the Pulitzer Prize-winning biographies Custer’s Trials and The First Tycoon
"A tale of tragedy and triumph that comes with political teeth...Anbinder is a master at taking a history with which many readers will be familiar—tenement houses, temperance societies, slums—and making it new, strange, and heartbreakingly vivid. The stories of individuals, including those of the entrepreneurial Steinway brothers and the tragic poet Pasquale D’Angelo, are undeniably compelling, but it’s Anbinder’s stunning image of New York as a true city of immigrants that captures the imagination." —Publishers Weekly, starred review "This thoroughgoing work offers a host of immigrant sagas that were integral to the creation of the New York City cauldron...[Anbinder] impressively conveys the sense of a city truly forged by the people who were determined to live and work there... An endlessly fascinating kaleidoscope of American history. A fantastic historical resource." —Kirkus Reviews, starred review "Full of fascinating, rock-solid history and provides compelling texture behind the larger trends... balanced and excellent." —Booklist, starred review
Before 1875, there were no restrictions on U.S. immigration. Those arriving in New York were checked for medical conditions and quarantined if necessary but otherwise entered the city to find livelihoods and communities, or to move West. Historian Anbinder (Five Points) focuses on certain periods of New York's immigration history, selecting eras with rich histories that helped build the city's multicultural landscape. Beginning with the founding of New Amsterdam as a Dutch colony in the 1700s, Anbinder explains the transition to English rule as the territory became known as New York. Even as early as 1700, real estate costs could be exorbitant, with many residents wanting to live in "desirable" areas. Anbinder's research is thorough and thoughtful; he doesn't gloss over difficulties, ethnic clashes, racism, slavery, or poverty. Rather, he explores the challenges of assimilation and what gets lost in the process of generations becoming "Americanized" through stories of prominent New Yorkers and more typical immigrant experiences. The author covers a lot of ground in readable and accessible prose that captures how the United States has become a nation of multifaceted cultures. VERDICT Essential for civic-minded readers, history buffs, fans of New York, and public and academic libraries.—Candice Kail, Columbia Univ. Libs., New York
From the Dutch to the British, featuring a concentration on the waves of Irish and German in the late 19th century, this thoroughgoing work offers a host of immigrant sagas that were integral to the creation of the New York City cauldron.Proceeding with grand themes such as “Anglicization,” “War,” “Liberty,” and “Refuge,” Anbinder (History/George Washington Univ.; Five Points: The Nineteenth-Century New York City Neighborhood that Invented Tap Dance, Stole Elections and Became the World's Most Notorious Slum, 2001, etc.) impressively conveys the sense of a city truly forged by the people who were determined to live and work there. He uses personal stories—e.g., by those who made the arduous ocean crossing under horrendous conditions—as well as contemporary maps that illustrate the delineation of neighborhoods by ethnicity, diagrams of the early tenement flats, and charts that record the incredible fluctuating numbers. For example, 950,000 Irish immigrants arrived in New York during the great famine years of the mid-1840s-1850s. Anbinder concentrates on the nitty-gritty details of these difficult early lives in America: their arrival at the immigration and inspection station, harassment by “runners” who tried to swindle them out of their money and luggage, groupings into neighborhoods and wards, overcrowded living conditions in squalid tenement buildings inhabited by most of the poorest new arrivals, and the kinds of jobs the unskilled gravitated toward, including household servants, manual laborers, street peddlers, and grocers. The author also examines the political proclivities of the newcomers—e.g., the support of the crooked Tweed Ring, the “Irish menace,” and recalcitrant Democrats who kept the vote from African-Americans. On the other hand, the tension between immigrants and nativists led to the rise of the Know Nothing Party and the increasing restrictions on immigration, especially against the Chinese. Furthermore, Anbinder gives plenty of room for the stories of the Jews, Italians, African-Americans, Dominicans, and others. An endlessly fascinating kaleidoscope of American history. A fantastic historical resource.