Saturday, March 25, 2006

An Immigrant Class: Oral Histories from Chicago's Newest Immigrants by Jeff Libman

With the topic of legal and illegal immigration again in the news, An Immigrant Class by Jeff Libman is a timely book. As a teacher of English as a Second Language at Harry S. Truman College in Chicago, the author meets a new batch of immigrants to the United States each term. He has gotten to know many of them and has collected stories from twenty of them in this book.

What the reader quickly discover is that the political arguments over immigration mistakenly portray immigrants as one like-minded body of people. In truth, the United States attracts people from many countries for many reasons. People from 144 countries have taken ESL classes at his college, according to the author. For many coming to the United States was not their dream. Many tried to lead good lives in their native lands, but political, environmental, or economic conditions drove them out.

Some worked hard to come to the country legally, while others worked to gain legal status after coming. All live in the U.S. with a mixture of hope and fear. While their skills and contributions to the U.S. economy vary, most work hard, pay taxes, and break no laws other than immigration laws.

Each story could be a feature piece is a newspaper or magazine. Many of the immigrants have endured great hardships and suffered great tragedies. They all have an appreciation for freedoms that many native Americans take for granted.

My library bought its copy of the book directly from the author. Go to his An Immigrant Class website for ordering instruction. You will also find a calender of the the author's speaking engagements. We plan to have him at the Thomas Ford Library next winter.

Libman, Jeff. An Immigrant Class: Oral Histories from Chicago's Newest Immigrants. Chicago: Flying Kite, Inc., 2004. ISBN 0974142905

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