Angel Island by Russell Freedman

12 Mar

When I taught 6th grade in  middle school, some years ago, our 8th grade team did a unit on immigration in Social Studies. The culminating event was a role plating exercise in which the students dressed up as an immigrant from their family history, and had to go through stations to enter the US.  All the teachers in the hall, 6th through 8th grade participated during their plan time. The brilliant skill our team members possessed,  was the ability to speak different languages. As they came to our station, we would give them instructions in a language they didn’t understand. I gave mine in French, another teacher in Hebrew, a couple of others in Spanish. Our Hispanic kids breezed throughout the stations in Spanish. Some kids figure it out. But I remember rather fondly one girl, a freckled red-head who had a costume so realistic she looked as though she had just left Ireland. She was a  very bright girl and school usually came easily to her. By the time she got to me, she was red-faced and looked exhausted. Even tough I didn’t speak to her in English, she told me how frustrated she felt about not having a clue about what was going on. The role play was a success!

Russell Freedman’s new book  Angel Island: Gateway to Gold Mountain  portrays that immigrant experience.

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It is always a pleasure to know that Russell Freedman has written a new book. With the feel of a family scrapbook, Freedman tells the story of the people who emigrated to America through Angel Island, first from China, then from other countries. It is a heartbreaking look at our past. With so much written about the Ellis Island experience, this book adds to the smaller list of books focusing on immigration on the West Coast. An amazing collection of photos is enhanced by poetry that was originally scrawled on the walls of Angel Island’s prison in Chinese characters.  Here is a sample of both the Chinese and translated poems:

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It’s been seven weeks since my imprisonment  

On this island – and still I do not know when I can land.                                                                              

Due to the twists and turns of  fate,                                                                                                                                                              

I have to endure bitterness and sorrow.

This would have been a great resource for our 8th grade team back in the day. Nice to know that today’s teachers have this wonderful resource.

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2 Responses to “Angel Island by Russell Freedman”

  1. Anonymous March 12, 2014 at 6:29 pm #

    I think this is high on my to-read list.

  2. lromainebrown March 12, 2014 at 8:53 pm #

    Your enactment was totally amazing.
    I will put Angel Island on my list…it made me remember a chapter from The Strudel Stories in which the girl becomes so flummoxed that when the doctor/guard — whoever’s station she went to asked her her name. My name? She couldn’t remember her name, she was so terrified.
    He marked an X on her coat (Grandma had made for the trip).
    She finally comes to her senses and gets angry at her fear so she turns the coat inside out with the blue lining showing (“blue for the sky that connects us,” Grandma had said) and marched through to freedom.

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