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

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

by David Laskin, Erik Synnestvedt (Narrated by)
 

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The United States has always been a nation of immigrants-never more so than in 1917 when the nation entered the First World War. Of the 2.5 million soldiers who fought with U.S. armed forces in the trenches of France and Belgium, some half a million-nearly one out of every five men-were immigrants. In The Long Way Home, David Laskin, author of the prizewinning history

Overview

The United States has always been a nation of immigrants-never more so than in 1917 when the nation entered the First World War. Of the 2.5 million soldiers who fought with U.S. armed forces in the trenches of France and Belgium, some half a million-nearly one out of every five men-were immigrants. In The Long Way Home, David Laskin, author of the prizewinning history The Children's Blizzard, tells the stories of twelve of these immigrant heroes. Starting with their childhoods in Europe, Laskin unfolds the saga of their journeys to Ellis Island, their struggles to start over in the land of opportunity, and the ordeal of their return to Europe in uniform to fight-and win-a war that had already killed tens of millions. Three of these soldiers died on the battlefield; two won the Congressional Medal of Honor; all were transformed forever by their experiences in combat. It is a transformation that continues to be felt in the pride and pain and cherished memories of immigrant families that have long since assimilated. In tracing the lives of these twelve men, Laskin tells the story of an immigrant generation-a generation that streamed into this country in unprecedented numbers around the turn of the last century, that sweated to support their families through back-breaking physical labor, and that fought loyally for their adopted country on the battlefields of Belleau Wood, Soissons, St. Mihiel, and the Argonne forest. Based on stories, letters, and diaries passed on by descendants-as well as Laskin's personal interviews with two foreign-born Doughboys who were still alive at the time he was researching the book, The Long Way Home is a reverent work of history and a deeply moving evocation of the dreams and sacrifice at the heart of the American experience.

Editorial Reviews

From the Publisher
"[A] quietly absorbing glimpse of some of the brave soldiers who helped win WWI." ---Publishers Weekly
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.)
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.”
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.”
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.”
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.”
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.”
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.”
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.]

Product Details

ISBN-13:
9781400144501
Publisher:
Tantor Media, Inc.
Publication date:
03/16/2010
Edition description:
Library - Unabridged CD
Product dimensions:
6.70(w) x 6.40(h) x 0.90(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's The Children's Blizzard won the 2006 Midwest Booksellers' Choice Award for nonfiction and the Washington State Book Award. His other titles include Braving the Elements, Partisans, A Common Life, and Artists in their Gardens (coauthored with Valerie Easton).

Actor Erik Synnestvedt has recorded nearly two hundred audiobooks, including The Day We Found the Universe by Marcia Bartusiak and Twitter Power by Joel Comm.

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