Vincent J. Cannato

American Passage: The History of Ellis Island

[HarperCollins, 2009; reprint (paperback), 2010]

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The first full history of America’s landmark port of entry, from immigration post to deportation center to mythical icon.

Description: For most of New York’s early history, Ellis Island had been an obscure little island that barely held itself above high tide. Today, the small island stands alongside Plymouth Rock in our nation’s founding mythology as the place where many of our ancestors first touched American soil. Ellis Island’s heyday—from 1892 to 1924—coincided with the greatest mass migration of individuals the world has ever seen, with some twelve million immigrants inspected at its gates. In American Passage, Vincent J. Cannato masterfully illuminates the story of Ellis Island from the days when it hosted pirate hangings witnessed by thousands of New Yorkers in the nineteenth century, to the turn of the twentieth century when massive migrations sparked fierce debate and hopeful new immigrants often encountered corruption, harsh conditions, and political scheming. American Passage captures a time and place unparalleled in American immigration and history, and articulates the dramatic and bittersweet accounts of the immigrants, officials, interpreters, and social reformers who all play an important role in Ellis Island’s chronicle. Cannato traces the politics, prejudices, and ideologies that surrounded the great immigration debate, to the shift from immigration to detention of aliens during World War II and the Cold War, all the way to the rebirth of the Island as a national monument. In this sweeping, often heart-wrenching epic, Cannato reveals that the history of Ellis Island is ultimately the story of what it means to be an American.

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Praise for American Passage . . .

"The story of America is one of immigration. By bringing us the inspiring and sometimes unsettling tales of Ellis Island, Vincent Cannato's American Passage helps us understand who we are as a nation." —Walter Isaacson, author of Einstein: His Life and Universe and Benjamin Franklin: An American Life

"To his great credit Cannato does not pretend to answer our tough questions about immigration, nor to find a 'usable past' in the history of Ellis Island. He just tells one heck of a story that oozes with relevance." —Walter A. McDougall, winner of the Pulitzer Prize and author of Throes of Democracy

"Immigration has long been a critical slice of the American narrative, and here, in American Passage, Vincent Cannato tells its story with great brio. From landing point to national Monument, from immigrants to interpreters, we see the veritable Babel of Ellis Island play out across the years." —Jay Winik, author of The Great Upheaval and April 1865

"Reading Vincent Cannato's American Passage was an amazing journey into our nation's immigrant past. Never before has Ellis Island been written about with such scholarly care and historical wisdom. Highly recommended!" —Douglas Brinkley, author of The Great Deluge

"Although Ellis Island is about immigrants from far-away places, it is in fact as American as Thanksgiving and apple pie.  It reminds us of who we were and who we are, and especially of how Americans came to be different from most other peoples. This amazing story is recounted beautifully in Vincent Cannato's well-written and evocative book, which will bring pleasure and profit to readers." —Kenneth T. Jackson, editor in chief, Encyclopedia of New York City

"In his clarifying and enlightening account of Ellis Island, a port of disembarkation which has become, in the American mythos, symbolically akin to Plymouth Rock, Cannato marshals impressive research to demonstrate the conflicting priorities played out during a significant chapter of our immigration history, dispelling a great many of the myths surrounding the entry process for prospective Americans and helping us to understand the continual challenge to open borders that a nation of immigrants must confront. American Passage invites us to consider the history of the Ellis Island experience as well as the ongoing story of our national identity." —The MassBook Judges

"Essential Reading" —Starred review, Library Journal

"Ambitious in scope and rooted in good storytelling." Kirkus

"Mr. Cannato's writing is vivid and accessible, and his approach is admirably even-handed." —Terry Golway, Wall Street Journal

"Anyone with a stake or even a fleeting interest in the overhaul of the nation's immigration policies should read Vincent J. Cannato's American Passage: The History of Ellis Island." —Sam Roberts, New York Times

"Cannato . . . understands that, now as then, immigration is an issue that leaves Americans uncomfortable and contentious, even as it continues to bring new blood and energy into the country." —Jonathan Yardley, Washington Post

"[A]ccessible. . . Cannato is particularly successful at showing the influence of the progressive movement on both the creation and the implementation of changing immigration law. [A]nyone with an interest in immigration or progressive politics will want to consult it." —Walter Russell Mead, Foreign Affairs

"The best thing about American Passage isn't so much the now-clichéd history lesson and timeline, albeit interesting, but the people who move the story along. . . . Historian Vincent Cannato appears to have overlooked nothing in telling the tale of the historic island." —Craig Wilson, USA Today

"Cannato does a masterful job of weaving together a slew of these singular immigration stories with the larger issues that surrounded the newcomers." —Abby Wisse Schachter, New York Post

"An absorbing and thoughtful read." —Pamela Miller, Minnesota Star-Tribune

"Vincent J. Cannato's American Passage [is] a finely-honed account that encompasses both the human story of the immigrant experience, often a sad one, and the political and bureaucratic responses." —Michael Kenney, Boston Globe

"American Passage is an exceptionally fine combination of vivid social history and careful policy analysis, as good a volume on the most visible symbol of American immigration history as you will find." —Luther Spoehr, Providence Journal

"[R]ead American Passage and enjoy the scholarship of a most gifted journalist and historian, Vincent Cannato. This will surely help enrich your visit to Ellis Island, and reinforce your love for our country and its history." —Alan Jay Gerber, The Jewish Star

"brilliantly analyzed . . . a gem of a study into our nation's immigration past."—Claude Ury, Sacramento Book Review

—Read an excerpt from the book as it appeared in Humanities Magazine, May/June 2009.

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Living in the Eighties

[Oxford University Press, 2009]

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Edited by Gil Troy and Vincent J. Cannato

Description: Some see the 1980s as a Golden Age, a "Morning in America" when Ronald Reagan revived America's economy, reoriented American politics, and restored Americans' faith in their country and in themselves. Others see the 1980s as a new "Gilded Age," an era that was selfish, superficial, glitzy, greedy, divisive, and destructive. This multifaceted exploration of the 1980s brings together a variety of voices from different political persuasions, generations, and vantage points. The contributors include one of President Reagan's closest aides (Ed Meese) and a Grammy-award winning record producer. There are Reagan critics and Reagan fans, historians who think the 1980s were a disastrous time, those who think it was a glorious time, and those who see both the blessings and the curses of the decade. The contributors examine everything from multiculturalism, Southern conservatism, and Reaganomics, to music culture, religion, crime, AIDS, and the city. A complex, thoughtful account of a watershed in our recent history, this volume will engage anyone interested in this pivotal decade.

Praise for Living in the Eighties . . .

 "Living in the Eighties is a lively set of essays that deftly explore cultural as well as political, social, and economic developments in America during the 1980s. I recommend it enthusiastically." —James T. Patterson, author of Restless Giant: The United States from Watergate to Bush v. Gore

"Living in the Eighties offers a fresh take on this important decade in the recent past. While acknowledging the constraints on the conservative shift in American politics and culture, the authors nicely capture the decisive turn to the right in this crucial era.  From Madonna to shopping malls to Reagan's key political victories, this volume provides a compelling and insightful portrait of America in the 80s." —Meg Jacobs, Massachusetts Institute of Technology

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The Ungovernable City: John Lindsay and His Struggle to Save New York

[Basic, 2001; reprint (paperback), Perseus, 2002]

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Description: Are cities governable? How much can America's mayors realistically hope to accomplish? In this thoughtful and gripping political biography. Vincent Cannato brings us back to the tumultuous era of the late 1960s and early 1970s when Mayor John Lindsay fought to rescue New York City from the depths of crisis. A reformer with movie-star looks and a liberal Republican agenda, Lindsay brought glamom and hope to City Hall. After eight years as mayor, however, he left office fatigued and disillusioned, his political career in ruins. In telling Lindsay's story. Cannato provides a keen study of American liberalism and paints a vivid picture of a city shaken by labor strikes, racial strife, fiscal troubles, rising crime, and antiwar protests.

Praise for Ungovernable City . . .

"A provocative history of a remarkable time in New York City." New York Times

"Essential reading for anyone interested in American cities or the 1960s." Washington Post

"A thorough and worthwhile look at eight of the most tumultuous years in New York's history." Wall Street Journal

"An exhaustive and nuanced, compulsively readable narrative, salted with measured, on-target judgments. By far the best work to be done on Lindsay, this biography is an important contribution not only to the literature on New York City but to the broader fields of urban and political studies." Publishers Weekly

"...a provocative history of a remarkable time in New York City and of a promising, ultimately weak political leader." New York Times Book Review - Joyce Purnick

"Journalist Cannato presents a sympathetic political biography of liberal Republican John Lindsay's tenure as mayor of New York City from 1966-1973. Each of the 16 chapters is devoted to a particular issue and/or event in the life of New York and Mayor Lindsay's career, with notable topics including the Columbia U. sit-in of 1968, the riots following the assassination of Martin Luther King Jr., the fight for public school reform, Lindsay's relations with the police department, and his failed run for the Democratic nomination for President in 1968." Booknews

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