City of Dreams

City of Dreams

The 400-year Epic History of Immigrant New York

Book - 2016
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With more than three million foreign-born residents today, New York has been America's defining port of entry for nearly four centuries, a magnet for transplants from all over the globe. These migrants have brought their hundreds of languages and distinct cultures to the city, and from there to the entire country. More immigrants have come to New York than all other entry points combined. City of Dreams is peopled with memorable characters both beloved and unfamiliar, whose lives unfold in rich detail: the young man from the Caribbean who passed through New York on his way to becoming a Founding Father; the ten-year-old Angelo Siciliano, from Calabria, who transformed into Charles Atlas, bodybuilder; Dominican-born Oscar de la Renta, whose couture designs have dressed first ladies from Jackie Kennedy to Michelle Obama. Tyler Anbinder's story is one of innovators and artists, revolutionaries and rioters, staggering deprivation and soaring triumphs, all playing out against the powerful backdrop of New York City, at once ever-changing and profoundly, permanently itself. City of Dreams provides a vivid sense of what New York looked like, sounded like, smelled like, and felt like over the centuries of its development and maturation into the city we know today.
Publisher: Boston :, Houghton Mifflin Harcourt,, 2016
ISBN: 9780544104655
054410465X
Characteristics: xxiv, 738 pages : illustrations, maps ; 24 cm

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zipread
Jul 08, 2017

One big book about one big city: one of the world's biggest until recently and, arguably, still the most important in the world. A relatively young city as such things go, founded by the Dutch in 1625, the city has thrived as a magnet to immigrants, first from Europe and then most recently, from countries around the world. And for all of them New York has been, literally, a city of dreams: a place where with hard work and a bit of luck, everything was possible.
Tyler Anbinder writes a compelling social history of the city. Compelling and history are two words one does not often see in the same sentence buy this author manages to do it.
Written scholastically but highly accessible none the less. Copious notes; generous bibliography. First class.

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cello9flute
Jan 23, 2017

I This is a wonderful book. It is of formidable length but you can just read the parts that have to do with your ethnic origins and nobody will know---Irish, German, Italian, and Jewish immigrants get the most detail, although many others are mentioned. What is most eye-opening, especially for today's young people, is to read about the appalling conditions on ships of the 19th and early 20th centuries on which our forebears traveled, the terrible living conditions in the New York City tenements, and the long hours of work the people of those days endured.

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DorisWaggoner
Dec 09, 2016

My immigrant ancestors came to America between 1638 and 1890. I don't know how many came through New Amsterdam/New York, but I learned a great deal about what their experiences must have been like, even though only my Dutch ancestors stayed in New York state and the city. Still, all Americans except those who are 100% Native Americans have immigrant ancestors, or are immigrants ourselves. The vast majority came through New York, including Anbinder's, who tells us representative stories. His research and wonderful writing, make for colorful and informative reading. He focuses on the largest groups (leaving out, among others, Norwegians like my ancestors, who settled in Brooklyn), and on the time periods when the most immigrants arrived. Even if our specific ancestors, or ancestral groups, aren't mentioned, a great deal of information can be gleaned about what their lives were like. One of the most important take-aways is that every single group, starting with the Dutch, the first to settle Manhattan, were highly intolerant of groups who came after them. In their case, it was Lutherans and Quakers, whose religion was so different from their Dutch Reform Church. Other, later, groups to suffer from intolerance by those who thought they were the "real Americans" also had different religions, like the Catholic Irish and Russian and Polish Jews, and more recently, Muslims from the Middle East. Others were racially different, like the Chinese, Dominicans, African-Americans. These prejudices aren't so different from those that dominate today's news. I found it depressing that we haven't learned we're all descended from immigrants. Yet Anbinder also gives many stories of individual poverty-stricken people who came from all over the world to make new lives for their children and grandchildren, and who succeeded.

bookreader7340 Dec 04, 2016

This book takes a deep look at the history of immigration and its impact on the essence and growth of New York City from the 17th century until present time. City of Dreams can be appreciated by New Yorkers, visitors to the city and those who want to expand their appreciation of the city's historical roots. Anbinder includes which sections of the city various immigrant groups settled in, giving the reader a good sense of the uniqueness and cultural richness of the area. Also explored are the physical, political and economic conditions under which these arrivals to America lived, the challenges they faced and how they assimilated into their new surroundings.

City of Dreams is divided into chapters covering periods of time over 400 years in chronological order, making it easy to either read the book in its entirety or choose to just read chapters of interest. While the book does not provide specific genealogical information, those who are researching ancestors who arrived and/or settled in New York City over the 400-year period can learn in general terms what data was originally gathered upon arrival in addition to what might still exist today (and what was destroyed), thus saving research time.

It's a great book about one of the world's greatest cities and certainly worth reading.

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