Friday, September 02, 2011

Poetry Friday: Denied, Deported, Detained

Statue of Liberty Dreams of Emma Lazarus, Awakens with Tears on her Cheeks

Naomi Shihab Nye

Give me your tired, your poor...
But not too tired, not too poor.
And we will give you the red tape,
the long line, white bread in its wrapper,
forms to fill out, and the looks, the stares
that say you are not where or what you should be,
not quirw, not yet, you will never live up to

Your huddled masses yearning to be free...
Can keep huddling. Even here. Sorry to say this.
Neighborhoods with poor drainage
Potholes, stunning gunshots...
You'll teem here too.

You dreamed a kinder place, a tree
no one would cut, a cabinet to store your clothes.
Simple jobs brining payment on time.
Someone to stand up for you.
The way I used to do, for everyone. Holding my torch
to get you to your new home in this country stitched
of immigrants from the get-go...
But you would always be homesick. No one said that.

I was the doorkeeper, concierge, welcome chief,
But rules have changed and I'm bouncer at the big club.
Had no say in it, hear me? Any chnace I could be, again,
the one I used to be?

I lift my lamp beside the golden door.
It's still up high. At night I tuck it into my robe.
And worry. What will happen to you?
Every taunt, every turn-around,
hand it over. That's not what you came here for.
I'll fold it into my rubbing rad,
Bring back a shine.

Denied, Detained, Deported: Stories from the Dark Side of American Immigration Ann Bauseum

Well, the call has gone out for 2011 CYBILS judges (you should totally sign up!) So I decided it was about time I FINALLY finished going through my notes and writing up the last lingering books that were nominated in 2009. (I read them all in 2009, I just didn't get around to reviewing all of them.)

This book opens with the poem I posted above. There are 5 chapters-- Exlcuded tells to the story of the Chinese Exclusion Act of 1882 and anti-Chinese sentitment during the late 19th century. Deported looks at the case of Emma Goldman and Alexander Berkman, Russian immigrants who became involved in the labor and anarchy movements at the beginning of the twentieth century and were deported for it after living in the US for decades. Goldman was already a citizen. Denied tells the of the ill-fated voyage of the St. Louis-- a ship of Jewish refugees who were denied port in Cuba and the US before returning to Hitler's Europe. Detained tells of Japanese internment during WWII. Exploited looks at the long history of Mexican immigration and the role of migrant workers in the US economy.

I wanted to like this one more than I did. It's beautifully done visually. The history is well explained and Bausum ties it in well with broader trends at the time as well as current events (and other events that happened between then and now.) The title chapters focus on just one family or person to give faces and names to some of the effected people. But... there is something about this book that I can't put my finger on that kept it from being truly awesome.

I ended up liking Bausum's Unraveling Freedom: The Battle for Democracy on the Home Front During World War I which I reviewed in March much better.

Today's Poetry Roundup is over at Miss Rumphius Effect.

Book Provided by... the publisher, for Cybils 2009 consideration

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Tara said...

Wry and witty...she makes a great point, especially these days.

Charlotte said...

oh goodness, I have a few 2009 titles still around, looking at me with puppy dog eyes...but at this point, I have to re-read them, and I just haven't found the time!

and that's a great poem, btw

Jennie said...

Charlotte-- the thing is that this blog is supposed to be *everything* I read, so I have to get those old ones reviewed. Luckily, I took really good notes when I read them originally.

Mary Lee said...

Powerful stuff. Sad and true.