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A defining American story of millions of immigrants, hundreds of languages, and one great city New York has been America's city of immigrants for nearly four centuries. Growing from Peter Minuit's tiny settlement of 1626 to one with more than three million immigrants today, the city has always been a magnet for transplants from all over the globe. It is only fitting that t A defining American story of millions of immigrants, hundreds of languages, and one great city New York has been America's city of immigrants for nearly four centuries. Growing from Peter Minuit's tiny settlement of 1626 to one with more than three million immigrants today, the city has always been a magnet for transplants from all over the globe. It is only fitting that the United States, a "nation of immigrants," is home to the only world city built primarily by immigration. More immigrants have entered the United States through New York than through all other entry points combined, making New York's immigrant saga a quintessentially American story. City of Dreams is the long-overdue, inspiring, and defining account of New York's both famous and forgotten immigrants: the young man from the Caribbean who relocated to New York and became a Founding Father; an Italian immigrant who toiled for years at railroad track maintenance before achieving his dream of becoming a nationally renowned poet; Russian-born Emma Goldman, who condoned the murder of American industrialists as a means of aiding downtrodden workers; Dominican immigrant Oscar de la Renta, who dressed first ladies from Jackie Kennedy to Michelle Obama. Over ten years in the making, Tyler Anbinder's story is one of innovators and artists, revolutionaries and rioters, staggering deprivation and soaring triumphs. Today's immigrants are really no different from those who have come to America in centuries past—and their story has never before been told with such breadth of scope, lavish research, and resounding spirit.


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A defining American story of millions of immigrants, hundreds of languages, and one great city New York has been America's city of immigrants for nearly four centuries. Growing from Peter Minuit's tiny settlement of 1626 to one with more than three million immigrants today, the city has always been a magnet for transplants from all over the globe. It is only fitting that t A defining American story of millions of immigrants, hundreds of languages, and one great city New York has been America's city of immigrants for nearly four centuries. Growing from Peter Minuit's tiny settlement of 1626 to one with more than three million immigrants today, the city has always been a magnet for transplants from all over the globe. It is only fitting that the United States, a "nation of immigrants," is home to the only world city built primarily by immigration. More immigrants have entered the United States through New York than through all other entry points combined, making New York's immigrant saga a quintessentially American story. City of Dreams is the long-overdue, inspiring, and defining account of New York's both famous and forgotten immigrants: the young man from the Caribbean who relocated to New York and became a Founding Father; an Italian immigrant who toiled for years at railroad track maintenance before achieving his dream of becoming a nationally renowned poet; Russian-born Emma Goldman, who condoned the murder of American industrialists as a means of aiding downtrodden workers; Dominican immigrant Oscar de la Renta, who dressed first ladies from Jackie Kennedy to Michelle Obama. Over ten years in the making, Tyler Anbinder's story is one of innovators and artists, revolutionaries and rioters, staggering deprivation and soaring triumphs. Today's immigrants are really no different from those who have come to America in centuries past—and their story has never before been told with such breadth of scope, lavish research, and resounding spirit.

30 review for City of Dreams: The 400-Year Epic History of Immigrant New York

  1. 5 out of 5

    Laurie

    History professor Anbinder, himself a native of New York, traces the waves of immigrants that have built NYC into the behemoth it is today. From Peter Minuit and his deal with the Native Americans to today, the author follows wave after wave of immigrants and how they shaped the city. From the Puritans and fur traders to huge waves of German and Irish immigrants to the Italians, eastern Europeans, Asians, former slaves, South and Central American, and West Indies, all the big movements of people History professor Anbinder, himself a native of New York, traces the waves of immigrants that have built NYC into the behemoth it is today. From Peter Minuit and his deal with the Native Americans to today, the author follows wave after wave of immigrants and how they shaped the city. From the Puritans and fur traders to huge waves of German and Irish immigrants to the Italians, eastern Europeans, Asians, former slaves, South and Central American, and West Indies, all the big movements of people are here. It’s a fascinating read; every wave of people came over hoping for more opportunity and a new life. Nearly all faced prejudice of the already ensconced people, horrible living conditions, and endless hard work. They bore this steadfastly, all in the hope that their children would have better lives than they had. This is not your boring history book. Anbinder frequently uses personal accounts to bring vivid life to the past. While this is a massive book- nearly 600 pages with another 100 of end notes, bibliography, appendices, and index- it was as gripping as a well-written novel. Here’s the Irish fleeing the famine, arriving as stick figures. Here are the people trying to take advantage of new immigrants. There were some parts that were less interesting to me- the section on the Civil War, for instance, because I never find war interesting- even those I read every word of. That is a first for me; I tend to skip the bits about fighting. Every wave of immigrants seemed to follow the same routine: take the first jobs they could get, always the things natives (and previous immigrants) had risen above. They work 7 days a week (except for the Jews, who mostly didn’t work on the Sabbath). They live in cramped quarters. As soon as they can save the money, they start a business of their own. They also send amazing amounts of money back to their home countries, whether it be to support parents or to bring over other family members. They become citizens as fast as possible most of the time, unless they are hoping to make enough money to have a business in their home country. They almost always dislike the next wave of immigrants, feeling that next wave has a criminal element to it. Humans have remained the same for the 400 year span of NYC; they are filled with prejudice. Excellent book; should be required reading. It’ll enlighten a lot of folks who want to build a wall.

  2. 4 out of 5

    Dan Graser

    If I may be so bold, this is the best work of history published so far in 2016. Before I get into exactly why, let me first acknowledge that when large-scale tomes like this emerge, reviewers frequently cart out the trite adjectives of, "magisterial, hugely-ambitious, all-encompassing, sweeping," and the like. Now, regrettably for my own originality, I have to say that every one of those applies to Tyler Anbinder's history of the effect of immigration in the founding and thriving of the greatest If I may be so bold, this is the best work of history published so far in 2016. Before I get into exactly why, let me first acknowledge that when large-scale tomes like this emerge, reviewers frequently cart out the trite adjectives of, "magisterial, hugely-ambitious, all-encompassing, sweeping," and the like. Now, regrettably for my own originality, I have to say that every one of those applies to Tyler Anbinder's history of the effect of immigration in the founding and thriving of the greatest city in the world, New York. This is such a gigantic achievement that I really can only sum up its particular importance in a couple of ways, you simply have to read it to experience its impact. You are genuinely taken from NYC's founding from Peter Minuit's tiny settlement through every major wave of immigration through the post 9/11 era in stunning detail and deeply felt prose. First of all, Anbinder achieves what few historians achieve in large-scale works like this, that being the delicate balance between the personal narrative of a few representative characters which add a human dimension to the work, while at the same time providing the large-scale statistics and historical analyses that transcend the personal and accurately describe the paradigmatic shifts of their subject, in this case the relationship of immigration rates of various foreign countries to the culture, industry, and politics of NYC. Second, Anbinder effectively uses this history of New York to make several larger points on American immigration and to thus make you reconsider several recent issues of immigration that for some reason we have felt could be summed up by one click-bait author on some vacuous blog. Never being cheaply political or insipidly, "fair and balanced," Anbinder shows the numerous sides (yes there are more than two) to any discussions of this issue and the necessary historical understanding for those discussions to have any merit. It is based on those two achievements that I would say Anbinder has written the historical book of the year. However, to describe the overall impact of the book, what you are left with after completing this great work is a personal and national understanding of immigration in the greatest city in the world told with an erudite and deft balance of fact and feeling. Brilliant, everyone needs to read this.

  3. 5 out of 5

    SundayAtDusk

    This is a highly readable book, but I still think most books over 400 pages are too long. Thus, for that reason, along with the fact I've read lots and lots about immigrants in New York, I focused intently on what topics interested me the most and skimmed the rest. Tyler Anbinder is an excellent historian and a very likable one, in my opinion. He knew how to pick and choose stories and individuals that would make this book come alive; and gave equal attention to women immigrants, unlike other bo This is a highly readable book, but I still think most books over 400 pages are too long. Thus, for that reason, along with the fact I've read lots and lots about immigrants in New York, I focused intently on what topics interested me the most and skimmed the rest. Tyler Anbinder is an excellent historian and a very likable one, in my opinion. He knew how to pick and choose stories and individuals that would make this book come alive; and gave equal attention to women immigrants, unlike other books that seem to always focus mostly on men. He also appeared to be trying to prove that the United States can and always has accommodated thousands and thousands of immigrants, both legal and illegal. That's truly astounding, too, but left me a bit overwhelmed by it all at the end. Others may be quite proud and happy to be a part of New York City, but I'm happy I don't live there. There's just too many people. Not too many people of too many ethnic groups, just too many people, period. (Note: I received a free copy of this book from Amazon Vine in exchange for an honest review.)

  4. 5 out of 5

    Richard Levine

    (4.5 stars) This is a fascinating and remarkably well-researched work detailing the history of immigration to, and the lives of immigrants in, New York City. Tyler Anbinder's book is long - I got the feeling that he easily could have written another 500 pages or so but for his editors' pleading to keep it to a semi-manageable length. But he effectively mixes an amazing amount of factual detail (numbers of immigrants per decade, with percentages broken down by country of origin, descriptions of ge (4.5 stars) This is a fascinating and remarkably well-researched work detailing the history of immigration to, and the lives of immigrants in, New York City. Tyler Anbinder's book is long - I got the feeling that he easily could have written another 500 pages or so but for his editors' pleading to keep it to a semi-manageable length. But he effectively mixes an amazing amount of factual detail (numbers of immigrants per decade, with percentages broken down by country of origin, descriptions of geographic concentrations of different ethnic groups in different parts of the city, etc.) with compelling stories of the immigrants themselves -- sometimes at an individual level, and sometimes in more generalized descriptions of the places and conditions (usually, incredibly crowded and squalid) in which they lived. Anbinder has chosen to focus on the largest groups of immigrants at different periods in New York's history: the Dutch and the English and Scots in the pre-Revolutionary period, the Irish and the Germans in the pre-Civil war period, the Italians and Eastern European Jews in the late 19th-early 20th century, and the Chinese and Caribbean immigrants in the contemporary era. So the book is not an utterly exhaustive survey of all the notable immigrant groups that have come to New York, but it paints an impressively detailed and sweeping picture of the history of the city and the role that immigration has played in that history. As someone who was born and raised in New York City and whose grandparents were immigrants, I not only accepted, but at an early age essentially took as an article of faith that immigration was THE story of America -- that the core of American identity was not ethnicity or religion but a commitment to the values, opportunities, and freedoms that made America a beacon for oppressed people around the world. In other words, as a grade school boy I bought the whole Statue of Liberty/Ellis Island/huddled masses/melting pot mythology hook, line, and sinker. So of course as I've gotten older I've become increasingly dismayed (or disillusioned, in the sense of having my illusions challenged by reality) by the growth of anti-immigrant sentiment in this country over the past couple of decades, culminating in the horrible policies of the current administration. Obviously, Tyler Anbinder also believes immigration is a key component of the American story. But his book doesn't sanitize the history of these immigrants. While our borders formerly were more open than they are now, there was never a golden age in which immigrants of different ethnicities were welcomed to our shores with open arms. Anbinder shows that every wave of new ethnic immigrants has been met with met with suspicion and hostility by "natives," who looked down on the newcomers, regarding them often as barely human and always as un-American. Then, once that group became more established and assimilated after a generation or two, they were equally hostile to the next wave. As Anbinder writes: "From the colonial period to the present, every generation of Americans has viewed the newest group to arrive as completely unlike previous immigrants. The Dutch felt that way about the Lutherans and Quakers. The English belittled the Germans and mistrusted the Irish. The children of the German and Irish immigrants disdained the Italians and Eastern European Jews. Those groups thought that Puerto Ricans were ruining the city, and so on." And throughout, as lowly as they might be, all of the new European immigrant groups at least had the advantage of white skin, which allowed them to feel superior to the city's African-Americans and to opportunistically join in their neighbors' racism. So for me, Anbinder's book was particularly helpful in de-mythologizing the story of immigration to America. In doing that, it also helped me understand that the most vicious xenophobes of today's politics did not spring out of nowhere but have deep historical roots. It's valuable to know that this type of anti-immigrant sentiment has always been a part of the American story, and yet we've managed to overcome it enough to get to where we are now. I suppose that makes me somewhat less depressed about America today. But not a lot.

  5. 5 out of 5

    Mary Alice

    Tyler Anbinder gives us a remarkable history of 400 years of immigrants in New York City. Many countries sent New York its poor and its social outcasts, and they all wanted new and better lives, if not for themselves, then for their children. The immigrants were seldom readily accepted by non immigrant New Yorkers or even members of other immigrant groups. But all found a section of the city they adapted for themselves and their countrymen. All made New York their own and left an indelible impri Tyler Anbinder gives us a remarkable history of 400 years of immigrants in New York City. Many countries sent New York its poor and its social outcasts, and they all wanted new and better lives, if not for themselves, then for their children. The immigrants were seldom readily accepted by non immigrant New Yorkers or even members of other immigrant groups. But all found a section of the city they adapted for themselves and their countrymen. All made New York their own and left an indelible imprint on the City as a whole. Anbinder gives us a vibrant portrait of the masses that came to different parts of the City from Europe, Asia, the Caribbean, South America, Central America, Africa and the West Indies. He is at his story telling best when he relates the tales of the Irish, the Chinese and the Jews and their little Italys, Chinatowns, etc. in New York City. But all of his stories of the New York immigrant experience are superb. He wraps up this history in modern times, focusing on the persecutions of Muslims after 9/11. He gives us all the aspects of the immigrants life -- religion, politics, military service, gang activity, food, jobs and often horrifying housing-- all with a backdrop of world history, including the American Civil War. Anbinder has an excellent understanding of New York's geography and how immigrants from each country roamed Manhattan, Brooklyn and Queens. He provides plenty of good maps. And the book is a statistics lovers dream with plenty of statistical commentaries on immigration from specific countries -- supported by lots and lots of tables. This is an enjoyable book on an important subject.

  6. 5 out of 5

    Bonnie Frogma

    Terrific book, a fascinating history. I actually finished this a while ago but was reminded to update this today as I found myself arguing against some knee-jerk racism that turned up on some random FB post about poaching in Prospect Park that I otherwise would have liked to share. "Rollercoaster ride" isn't ordinarily a term I would think of applying to a history, but again and again, there were the sometimes horrendous conditions that drove people out of their homes, there was the hope and pro Terrific book, a fascinating history. I actually finished this a while ago but was reminded to update this today as I found myself arguing against some knee-jerk racism that turned up on some random FB post about poaching in Prospect Park that I otherwise would have liked to share. "Rollercoaster ride" isn't ordinarily a term I would think of applying to a history, but again and again, there were the sometimes horrendous conditions that drove people out of their homes, there was the hope and promise that drew them to NYC, and then there were the things that were said and done to the new arrivals by those who'd come earlier, repeating again and again right up until today. An excellent and thought provoking read (and not as depressing as I may have just made it sound).

  7. 4 out of 5

    Nidiem

    Fantastic! This is such a comprehensive book regarding the history of New York and the immigrant experiences. It helped me understand so much about my own family history and enlightened me about the New York I grew up in! A mixture of statistics, historical facts and personal stories that span a wide range of ethnicities and time, this is an excellent read.

  8. 4 out of 5

    Carol Storm

    Better than GOTHAM because it's big, but not too big to carry. The best history of NYC I have ever read! Better than GOTHAM because it's big, but not too big to carry. The best history of NYC I have ever read!

  9. 5 out of 5

    Drew Zagorski

    This is an essential read for everyone as it particularly relates to America's immigrant history. Anbinder takes us back 400 years to the first immigrant/settlers of New York. The book, while substantial at nearly 800 pages, was very engaging and the narrative carries the reader through with ease. The first three quarters of the book were the most fascinating to me - ranging from the first settlers in the early 1600s up to around the 1930s. These pages contained much in them that is worth knowin This is an essential read for everyone as it particularly relates to America's immigrant history. Anbinder takes us back 400 years to the first immigrant/settlers of New York. The book, while substantial at nearly 800 pages, was very engaging and the narrative carries the reader through with ease. The first three quarters of the book were the most fascinating to me - ranging from the first settlers in the early 1600s up to around the 1930s. These pages contained much in them that is worth knowing - that the struggles and issues around immigration that we are witnessing in 2019 are nothing new. The last quarter of the book is more recent history, so it wasn't as engaging for me. But if you've not read much history around this topic, it will be full of very important stories. At the end the book lays bare the reality that, while the concept of America is a worthy one and one worth striving for, we, as a nation, have never lived up to the ideal. The immigrant history of New York is a microcosm of the immigrant history of our entire nation. And it's a great reminder that the only native Americans that live in this country are Native Americans - and even most of those peoples migrated over the ancient land bridge (another story altogether and one worth looking into if you haven't). This book was time well invested and worth your focus.

  10. 5 out of 5

    Lorri

    I was totally engrossed in this masterly written book, and found it difficult to put down. The pages are infused with incredible details, documentation, and illuminations. I have read other histories regarding New York City, yet there were descriptives within the pages of Anbinder's book that gave me new insight into other immigrant cultures, such as the Germans. In my opinion, Tyler Anbinder has given the reading community a book of intense, historical importance. I was totally engrossed in this masterly written book, and found it difficult to put down. The pages are infused with incredible details, documentation, and illuminations. I have read other histories regarding New York City, yet there were descriptives within the pages of Anbinder's book that gave me new insight into other immigrant cultures, such as the Germans. In my opinion, Tyler Anbinder has given the reading community a book of intense, historical importance.

  11. 4 out of 5

    Dana Reynolds

    City of Dreams is the definitive story of the history of the Big Apple. It is more than just a story of immigration, but of the important historical events of the city. It's reach goes far beyond the affects of these events on the city to include this nation as well. Readers who are aware of the old saying, "history is told by the winners," will be quickly disabused of that "truism" early and often in this book! City of Dreams is the definitive story of the history of the Big Apple. It is more than just a story of immigration, but of the important historical events of the city. It's reach goes far beyond the affects of these events on the city to include this nation as well. Readers who are aware of the old saying, "history is told by the winners," will be quickly disabused of that "truism" early and often in this book!

  12. 4 out of 5

    Frieda Vizel

    Fantastic. History at its most compelling. Really eye-opening.

  13. 4 out of 5

    Biblio Files (takingadayoff)

    The story of immigration in America is more or less the story of America, so there are many ways writers and historians have of making the topic more manageable. Tyler Anbinder attacks it by telling the story of immigrants in New York City, and even this is a massive undertaking. From Colonial times to the present day, Anbinder explains how immigrants from dozens of countries have landed in New York and made it their home. In 1910, he tells us, the population density of the Lower East Side was g The story of immigration in America is more or less the story of America, so there are many ways writers and historians have of making the topic more manageable. Tyler Anbinder attacks it by telling the story of immigrants in New York City, and even this is a massive undertaking. From Colonial times to the present day, Anbinder explains how immigrants from dozens of countries have landed in New York and made it their home. In 1910, he tells us, the population density of the Lower East Side was greater than that of Mumbai today. In fact, the population of that area was greater than the combined populations of New Mexico, Nevada, Arizona, and Wyoming in 1910. It's hard to imagine what that would have been like -- the constant noise, for one thing, would have been exhausting. In addition to a well-told history of a fascinating subject, Anbinder includes a comprehensive bibliography that will point you in lots of interesting directions for further reading. My only criticism of this book is of the final chapter in which Anbinder lectures us on how we should vote in this election of 2016.

  14. 4 out of 5

    Guy Austin

    The publishers notes really say it all. It is a vast and sweeping history of the immigration story of New York. From the Danes to about the 1980-90's. The experience of the early settlers and the current immigrants is not much different. Welcomed with suspicion and sectioned, much by choice. The country and the city were built largely on the backs of these peoples. The stories of these people, many unknown, voices from the past tell us much about today as yesterday. There are several stories tha The publishers notes really say it all. It is a vast and sweeping history of the immigration story of New York. From the Danes to about the 1980-90's. The experience of the early settlers and the current immigrants is not much different. Welcomed with suspicion and sectioned, much by choice. The country and the city were built largely on the backs of these peoples. The stories of these people, many unknown, voices from the past tell us much about today as yesterday. There are several stories that have become very well known, as the family names will attest to. They say those who do not know there History... and I will say this reading is a testament to that thought. It should be read. I say many of our representatives in congress would be well served in doing so. We are a nation of immigrants. This is a story of New York Immigrants, yes. But it is also a story of the building of our country. Solid 4* read.

  15. 4 out of 5

    Jill

    Somehow both sweeping and incredibly specific history of both New York City and immigration. (It sort of oscillates between these two subjects. I didn't really mind bc most everything covered was fascinating but admittedly wasn't always purely about immigration and immigrant experience IN NYC). Important reminder that US has a long sad history of nativism and discriminating against new groups until the next new group arrives. Book had disappointingly uneven treatment of last 100 years, would hav Somehow both sweeping and incredibly specific history of both New York City and immigration. (It sort of oscillates between these two subjects. I didn't really mind bc most everything covered was fascinating but admittedly wasn't always purely about immigration and immigrant experience IN NYC). Important reminder that US has a long sad history of nativism and discriminating against new groups until the next new group arrives. Book had disappointingly uneven treatment of last 100 years, would have liked more on modern trends but was a little rushed (ditto with author's conclusion- either omit or flesh it out).

  16. 4 out of 5

    Leora Wenger

    Impressive history of immigrants to New York - I especially enjoyed learning about some of the more recent immigrant groups. I have my doubts, however, that the issues with today's immigrants are the same as the ones in the past. See Germany in the past year. See France. I also would have liked more differentiation between 19th century German immigrants and German Jewish immigrants. It could be that the German Jewish immigrants assimilated so quickly after while the difference was minimal. Impressive history of immigrants to New York - I especially enjoyed learning about some of the more recent immigrant groups. I have my doubts, however, that the issues with today's immigrants are the same as the ones in the past. See Germany in the past year. See France. I also would have liked more differentiation between 19th century German immigrants and German Jewish immigrants. It could be that the German Jewish immigrants assimilated so quickly after while the difference was minimal.

  17. 5 out of 5

    John Bond

    Great. A mist read for all US citizens. What is old is new.

  18. 5 out of 5

    Dawn

    This book was long but so well researched and written.

  19. 5 out of 5

    Jean Tucker

    Though a long book, City of Dreams: The 400-Year Epic History of Immigrant New York is entertaining and informative throughout. It focuses on the largest immigrant groups from each era: the Dutch, English, and Scots in the pre-Revolutionary era; the Irish and Germans in the 19th century; the Italians and eastern European Jews in the early 20th century; and immigrants from China and the Caribbean in the late 20th and early 21st centuries. Since the majority of Americans have ancestry from one or m Though a long book, City of Dreams: The 400-Year Epic History of Immigrant New York is entertaining and informative throughout. It focuses on the largest immigrant groups from each era: the Dutch, English, and Scots in the pre-Revolutionary era; the Irish and Germans in the 19th century; the Italians and eastern European Jews in the early 20th century; and immigrants from China and the Caribbean in the late 20th and early 21st centuries. Since the majority of Americans have ancestry from one or more of these groups, the reasons our immigrant ancestors came and how they learned to live and prosper in their new country is relevant beyond the New York specific history. One can argue that the idea of America is based in the immigrant experience: the dream of a fresh start, the hero’s journey, the struggle for survival, and finally assimilation and prosperity. As each massive new group came, those from earlier groups were certain that the newcomers were different, inferior and would not assimilate well. These are the same arguments being made today. In the past, the new immigrants were willing to take the most difficult jobs and to fight in the current wars of their new land to prove their allegiance. Much of the infrastructure of the past was built by immigrants both free and slave. Today, 3.2 million or 37% of the total population of 8.5 million residents are immigrants. Living in New York myself, I’m well aware of the immigrants in our midst. They make the city a unique, polyglot place. I’ve always loved reading about New York City because as you move about the city, the past is still visible in many ways. Now I’ve added to my store of information about the influence of the past on today and how the current incarnation of New York was brought forth. This book was one of the New York Times best books of 2016. As I write this in early 2017, immigration is a hot topic being debated in the U.S. If you truly want to be prepared for this debate, reading this book will prepare the way.

  20. 5 out of 5

    Bonnie

    America is known as the land of immigrants, and New York is one of the biggest gateways. This book looks at the changing makeup of immigrants over four centuries, from the Dutch in the 1600s to Chinese, South Americans and people of the Caribbean that currently make up the majority of newcomers. Many of them never moved beyond New York City and foreign born immigrants have made up a huge percentage of New York residents, at times up to 69%. They often created cities within the city, such as Kle America is known as the land of immigrants, and New York is one of the biggest gateways. This book looks at the changing makeup of immigrants over four centuries, from the Dutch in the 1600s to Chinese, South Americans and people of the Caribbean that currently make up the majority of newcomers. Many of them never moved beyond New York City and foreign born immigrants have made up a huge percentage of New York residents, at times up to 69%. They often created cities within the city, such as Kleindeutschland and Chinatown. Here, they were among people from the same corner of the world and could enjoy familiar foods, language and traditions. Anbinder also looks at neighborhoods, the conditions the people lived with and the occupations they settled into. (For someone who does not live in New York, the neighborhood details may not mean so much.) The book looks at how world events and legislation, such as the Hart-Sellers Act and National Origins Act, changed the mix of nationalities who arrived at the port. Immigrants also impacted the course of history, such as the President's reluctance to enter World War I, because he feared a civil war between immigrants siding with their country of origin. And, in World War II, spies sought information to benefit their homeland. And, of course, the book looks at why the newcomers came to the United States - over and over, the story is the same; because this is the land of freedom and opportunity.

  21. 5 out of 5

    Jeff

    I won this ARC through a Goodreads giveaway. Having grown up in NYC, I am always interested in its history. This book speaks of NYC's history through the stories of immigrants, as opposed to captains of industry or politicians. Anbinder divides his book through certain time periods, e.g., Revolutionary War, antebellum, post WWI, etc. I thought the best parts of the book started in the 1600's when the Dutch ruled NYC, through the 1910's, when Jacob Riis wrote his famous book about living conditio I won this ARC through a Goodreads giveaway. Having grown up in NYC, I am always interested in its history. This book speaks of NYC's history through the stories of immigrants, as opposed to captains of industry or politicians. Anbinder divides his book through certain time periods, e.g., Revolutionary War, antebellum, post WWI, etc. I thought the best parts of the book started in the 1600's when the Dutch ruled NYC, through the 1910's, when Jacob Riis wrote his famous book about living conditions of immigrants on the Lower East Side. After WWI, however, with immigration quotas and fears of saboteurs, the story seemed to get drier. I also liked the personal stories of Anbinder's ancestors and other immigrants. Their struggles, their hope, and their reasons for coming to NY were more compelling than statistics of how many people arrived from a certain nation. The end of the book tended to drag, because the reasons folks came to NYC in the 1970's through today are the same basic reasons why folks have been coming since 1680. But I enjoyed the summary of this book, that NYC and America still gives hope to folks from other lands. No matter how bad their lives are in NYC, their lives are still better from the countries they came from. That, among many other reasons, makes me grateful that I am American.

  22. 5 out of 5

    Bonnie_blu

    It was well worth reading this large volume (570 pages, not including notes, bibliography, etc.) since Anbinder does an excellent job of covering the immigrant history of New York City. He deftly mixes statistical data, the history of movers and shakers, and the stories of individual immigrants in the book. Of course, he couldn't cover everything, but he managed to convey both the sweep of history and the common people striving to endure and succeed within it. There are two major takeaways: 1. A It was well worth reading this large volume (570 pages, not including notes, bibliography, etc.) since Anbinder does an excellent job of covering the immigrant history of New York City. He deftly mixes statistical data, the history of movers and shakers, and the stories of individual immigrants in the book. Of course, he couldn't cover everything, but he managed to convey both the sweep of history and the common people striving to endure and succeed within it. There are two major takeaways: 1. An established group / society reacts to immigrants in a predictable way. If a group (the other) that is large enough or different enough encroaches on an established group, they are viewed with suspicion, which often results in violence, legal restrictions, or exclusion. Eventually, the existing group becomes accustomed to the new people in their midst and a new norm is established. This does not mean that prejudices disappear, but that they are generally greatly lessened (needless to say, there are always exceptions). And when a new group of immigrants arrives, the cycle begins again. 2. Immigration has made the U.S. a vibrant, successful country. Without the drive, intelligence, hard work, and perseverance of the millions of immigrants who came to the U.S., it could not have accomplished all that it has.

  23. 4 out of 5

    Sandy Brusin

    These days those seeking legitimate sanctuary in America are demonized and brutalized. So disturbing. For that reason, I was absorbed by Anbinder's exhaustive 400 year history of New York City, settled by wave after wave of immigrants seeking refuge, opportunity, freedom. The "huddled masses yearning to breathe free" transformed America and helped to make it the great country that it is. We know that. What I didn't know is that historically immigrants were demonized and brutalized and our immigr These days those seeking legitimate sanctuary in America are demonized and brutalized. So disturbing. For that reason, I was absorbed by Anbinder's exhaustive 400 year history of New York City, settled by wave after wave of immigrants seeking refuge, opportunity, freedom. The "huddled masses yearning to breathe free" transformed America and helped to make it the great country that it is. We know that. What I didn't know is that historically immigrants were demonized and brutalized and our immigration laws were manipulated (as they are being manipulated today) to exclude some groups while welcoming others. Somehow, we made our way through these dark times in the past with the values that have come to signify what it means to be "American" in tact. This has given me hope, that we will survive the present day assault on what makes America great. As Anbinder points out, water imagery is often used to described the "tide," the "flow," the "stream," the "river" of people that steadily, throughout our history, have made their way to our shores. Nothing can hold back rising water on the move.

  24. 4 out of 5

    Patricia

    Spent a good share of this winter reading about immigrants and poor people of America. Started with "White Trash", then a couple of small books about the immigrant culture of Orchard Street in New York during the early years of the last century. Then came "Hillbilly Elegy" followed by Ëvicted". Moving on to "City of Dreams", This was an education in the history of immigrants and the disenfranchised. :White Trash"was the most difficult to read. Very scholarly book. Evicted was the best with all t Spent a good share of this winter reading about immigrants and poor people of America. Started with "White Trash", then a couple of small books about the immigrant culture of Orchard Street in New York during the early years of the last century. Then came "Hillbilly Elegy" followed by Ëvicted". Moving on to "City of Dreams", This was an education in the history of immigrants and the disenfranchised. :White Trash"was the most difficult to read. Very scholarly book. Evicted was the best with all the others in-between. City of Dreams is a big book but worth every minute, easy to read, with personal stories. Engaged and engaging. One thing is evident, accept for the very early years, we have always viewed immigrants with suspicion and fear. And while what is going on today is shameful, it is not new or maybe even the worst. Thanks Goodness we have such immediate and plentiful communication. We may not have changed much in our attitudes but we are better informed and maybe will make better solutions now and in the future.

  25. 4 out of 5

    Jordan

    I've been looking for a decent book on the history of New York, and this hit the spot. It goes through the history of New York with a focus on how it grew and developed through immigration. New York and immigration go hand-in-hand so it's an appropriate lens through which to view the city. Writing the history of a city is a tall task - there's not necessarily a go-to hero that we can follow, but the author did a decent job of keeping the writing tight and focused, with lots of stories about some I've been looking for a decent book on the history of New York, and this hit the spot. It goes through the history of New York with a focus on how it grew and developed through immigration. New York and immigration go hand-in-hand so it's an appropriate lens through which to view the city. Writing the history of a city is a tall task - there's not necessarily a go-to hero that we can follow, but the author did a decent job of keeping the writing tight and focused, with lots of stories about some of the most colorful characters the city has seen and some of the most important events. I especially liked the sections on the Draft Riots, Boss Tweed and Tammany Hall, and the Gilded Age. At times the book felt a bit like a grad student's paper in which the student really wanted to write about New York, but ultimately felt obligated again and again to make sure he was answering the prompt about immigration. It felt forced and awkward at times. All in all, though, this is the best book I've read on the city.

  26. 5 out of 5

    Premal Vora

    Engaging, sweeping history of New York but from an immigration perspective. I found the book very interesting until about three-fourths of the way. Up until then, immigration into the US, in general, and to NY, in specific, was driven by major events of historical importance (advent of fur trade, religious persecution, famine, fascism, etc.). I loved the way the author connected those events with the ebb and tide of different ethnicities into NY. In modern times, immigration can mostly be explai Engaging, sweeping history of New York but from an immigration perspective. I found the book very interesting until about three-fourths of the way. Up until then, immigration into the US, in general, and to NY, in specific, was driven by major events of historical importance (advent of fur trade, religious persecution, famine, fascism, etc.). I loved the way the author connected those events with the ebb and tide of different ethnicities into NY. In modern times, immigration can mostly be explained by one major factor: economic opportunity (yes, other factors exist but are overshadowed by economic opportunity). Thus, the story isn't as compelling anymore. In any case, I will have a much better appreciation of the different neighborhoods of NY and I will visit certain places that I would never have desired to visit. And I'm pretty sure that I have a deeper appreciation of everything NY. For all those of you who live in NY or are interested in the city, this is a must read!

  27. 4 out of 5

    Natalie MT

    I am a student of religion and was required to read this for a course. I enjoyed what I read and enjoyed learning a new history of New York City and of immigrants in the United States. Anbinder constructs a history of ordinary people, not a history of power in NYC. Although he does write more in-depth about immigrants who succeeded in high positions, he also shows more of the life of the common folk, something I personally like to read about in history books. It allows a more inclusive history c I am a student of religion and was required to read this for a course. I enjoyed what I read and enjoyed learning a new history of New York City and of immigrants in the United States. Anbinder constructs a history of ordinary people, not a history of power in NYC. Although he does write more in-depth about immigrants who succeeded in high positions, he also shows more of the life of the common folk, something I personally like to read about in history books. It allows a more inclusive history covering all possibilities of humanity at the time. However, when writing a book spanning 400 years, it would seem important to avoid digressions. Anbinder does not. His book is very interesting, but can diverge on a story of an immigrant for several pages taking the reader away from the initial discussion and possibly even leaving NYC. As a student, this was not enjoyable and I learned quickly to skim areas in search for the most important subject of the chapter. From a student point-of-view, it was difficult to read at times because of the digressions. I am sure he tells his students to stay on subject in their essays. He should do the same.

  28. 5 out of 5

    Micebyliz

    An exceptionally well researched tome on the history of New York City. It stands out as a history book because it is not desiccated :) or too stuffy :) It was easy to read and absorb. I enjoyed the brief stories about well-known individuals like Alexander Hamilton and Thomas Jefferson, but what i really wanted were stories about women. History many times overlooks women and their importance to historical events. It was not until over halfway through that the first woman appeared other than the w An exceptionally well researched tome on the history of New York City. It stands out as a history book because it is not desiccated :) or too stuffy :) It was easy to read and absorb. I enjoyed the brief stories about well-known individuals like Alexander Hamilton and Thomas Jefferson, but what i really wanted were stories about women. History many times overlooks women and their importance to historical events. It was not until over halfway through that the first woman appeared other than the wife who bore 12 or 15 children. (a feat in itself if you are still alive) By the time you get to the late 19th century, much has improved but then there is WWI...i did appreciate the ending remarks on immigration and the debt we owe to so many who got here before us, and mostly the apology we owe to those who were here originally.

  29. 4 out of 5

    Rebecca Stanley

    My rating: 4.9/5 Goodreads rating: 5/5 This is an excellent, fantastic book (though I'm probably a bit biased because my interest lies in Ellis Island and the Lower East Side). However, as someone who's only visited New York City twice, it would've been nice to have a couple more maps in the book - namely, one showing all the major streets and avenues in Manhattan, and the second one showing all the neighborhoods of all the five boroughs. This way, with the former, if Anbinder mentions a set of st My rating: 4.9/5 Goodreads rating: 5/5 This is an excellent, fantastic book (though I'm probably a bit biased because my interest lies in Ellis Island and the Lower East Side). However, as someone who's only visited New York City twice, it would've been nice to have a couple more maps in the book - namely, one showing all the major streets and avenues in Manhattan, and the second one showing all the neighborhoods of all the five boroughs. This way, with the former, if Anbinder mentions a set of streets, you know exactly where it is. With the latter, once people start moving out of southern Manhattan, you know exactly where Harlem or neighborhoods in the Bronx, Brooklyn, or Queens are. With that being mentioned, I have recommended this book to people with the caveat that they read it with an atlas of New York City by their side.

  30. 4 out of 5

    David Miraldi

    As a frequent visitor to NYC over the last decade, I was intrigued when I saw this book in audiobook format at my local library. The author takes the reader on a 400 year history of New York City. The national story serves as a backdrop to the unique stories that shaped New York City throughout its history. The immigrant experience is played out again and again in this city from Dutch to English to German to Irish to Italians to Dominicans. Each new wave is met by a mixture of hardship and oppor As a frequent visitor to NYC over the last decade, I was intrigued when I saw this book in audiobook format at my local library. The author takes the reader on a 400 year history of New York City. The national story serves as a backdrop to the unique stories that shaped New York City throughout its history. The immigrant experience is played out again and again in this city from Dutch to English to German to Irish to Italians to Dominicans. Each new wave is met by a mixture of hardship and opportunity. Each group of immigrants faces discrimination from those who are now established. Xenophobia is not a new American response to immigration. The book not only tells the story of each major ethnic group but relates individual stories from each. It is a book worth reading twice in order to reinforce its themes and stories.

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