The Italian American Family Album
1994, Oxford University Press
Excerpt from The Italian American Family Album:
Every immigrant had his or her own first impressions of America. Sometimes
the feelings could be mixed, as recalled by Angelo Pellegrini, who arrived at Ellis Island in New York Harbor in 1913.
“[We knew nothing] about the annoying routine to which all aliens who entered America had to submit. Had we known, the experience would certainly have been less terrifying. I remember only interminable, uncertain waiting, complete bewilderment. And the horrible rumors!…Why were we herded into those barren rooms?….Someone said that a terrible disease had been discovered among the passengers, and that no one would be permitted to land. Someone else suggested that America was filled up and that there was no room for anyone….
“Well! The Pellegrinis were not rejected. [After being released from Ellis Island, the family went to a restaurant.] Our stomachs were writhing and squirming in outraged impatience for something good and solid to digest. In brief: we were very hungry. And this is what we were served: sliced oranges, ham, eggs, fried potatoes, buttered toast, coffee, cream, sugar. And then more
buttered toast, more coffee, more cream, more sugar. And would we have some more toast? Just ask for it. Would we have more coffee, more cream? Just ask for them. As much as we could eat of anything. All for one price. Just ask for it! So that was America! Just ask for it….We had hoped for much from the New World. But we had not hoped for all that.”
Selected for Commonweal/National Conference of Christians and Jews “Human Family” list of recommended books for children and young adults
Nominated for best nonfiction book for children by American Council of Teachers of English
Reviewed by Los Angeles Times, Chicago Tribune,Newsday
Selected for New York Public Library’s Books for the Teen-Age