word craft


Immigrants or descendants of immigrants

Nev­er mind the intense debates about immi­gra­tion to the USA, unless you are a dece­dent of North America’s indige­nous peo­ples, we are ALL immi­grants or descen­dants of immi­grants. Even my wife — one among the mil­lions who can trace her fam­i­ly his­to­ry back to the Mayflower — fits with­in that cat­e­go­ry. But com­ing to the Amer­i­c­as has a very long history.

It was in the year 985 AD that Vikings came to North Amer­i­ca and estab­lished the first Euro­pean set­tle­ment in New­found­land. It does not appear to have been per­ma­nent and is known pri­mar­i­ly by some arche­o­log­i­cal evidence.

Five hun­dred years lat­er, in 1497, John Cabot, whose Venet­ian birth name was Gio­van­ni Caboto, sail­ing with a com­mis­sion by the Eng­lish King Hen­ry VII, set down two claimant flags, an Eng­lish flag, and a Venet­ian flag, also in New­found­land. But again no per­ma­nent set­tle­ment was created.

It’s gen­er­al­ly accept­ed that only in 1565, with the cre­ation of St. Augus­tine [Flori­da] the old­est con­tin­u­ous­ly occu­pied set­tle­ment of Euro­pean and African Amer­i­can ori­gin in the Unit­ed States came into being. That’s forty years or so before the Jamestown and Mass­a­chu­setts Eng­lish set­tle­ments were created.

That said, from the 16th cen­tu­ry on, immi­grants have been com­ing to what is now the USA. Mil­lions came, each with their own sto­ry. Most came vol­un­tar­i­ly, but there were many who came in chains — slaves and felons. It was in 1619 that the first slaves came to Vir­ginia, some twelve and a half mil­lion. A hun­dred years lat­er, in 1719, the Eng­lish gov­ern­ment began to use trans­porta­tion to the colonies as a legal pun­ish­ment for felons. It is esti­mat­ed that 50,000 of them were brought to the colonies of Vir­ginia and Maryland.

[My 2019 nov­el, The End of the World and Beyond, is about this aspect of Amer­i­can history]

It is said that in 1785 George Wash­ing­ton referred to New York City as “The seat of the Empire,” mean­ing the Amer­i­can Empire. He also spoke of the city as the “path­way to Empire.” Hence the city’s nick­name “Empire City.”

All of this sits as back­ground for my forth­com­ing mid­dle-grade nov­el, Lost in the Empire City. It’s an ear­ly 20th-cen­tu­ry sto­ry about an Ital­ian boy who immi­grates to Amer­i­ca only to be sep­a­rat­ed from his fam­i­ly upon arrival at Ellis Island. How he strug­gles to sur­vive and find that fam­i­ly in New York City is the essence of this adven­ture tale. It will be pub­lished on the 2024 Fall list by HarperCollins.

The cov­er art is by David Dean. You’re the first to see it. It’s not even up on the book­store sites yet.

Lost in the Empire City

1 thought on “Immigrants or descendants of immigrants”

  1. Thanks for the com­men­tary that is so spot on and so often ‘for­got­ten’ about our col­lec­tives his­to­ries in this nation, this land. I appre­ci­ate the les­son on where the word Empire came from when refer­ring to NYC . And best of all, thank you for anoth­er book to enlight­en your avid Avireaders!


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