Friday, January 13, 2017

Review: Their Great Gift: Courage, Sacrifice and Hope in a New Land by John Coy, Photos by Wing Young Huie


I have a box of laminated photographs I have been collecting since high school (yes, we had photographs back then.) Most were cut out of magazines, particularly National geographic, and almost all are of people. They are pictures that caught my eye for one reason or another, usually having something to do with the expression on the subject's face.

Opening up this book was like going through my box of pictures. Whether the people in them are looking into the camera lens or away, smiling or serious, there is something captivating about each one. They are the faces of immigrants, come here for a variety of reasons, determined to make a better lives not just for themselves, but for their families. As the spare text says, "They dreamed of more."

The text goes on to say, "They made mistakes and people laughed. Others didn't understand how much they'd sacrificed." I feel like I am stating the obvious when I say this would be a fantastic book to open discussion about so many important and timely issues. It closes by asking, "What will we do with their great gift?"

My paternal great-grandfather came here from Italy, hoping to build a better life. He and his uncle ran a store in the town where I grew up. His son brought my grandmother home from the UK, a war bride. I have copies of letters she wrote to her future mother-in-law, nervous and excited about the changes ahead of her.

On my mother's side, we have German, French-Canadian, English, and Dutch. As far as I can tell, within three generations ago, none of my relatives were actually here in the US!

Another fun fact: my maiden name, Segna. Not too common here in the US, very very common in northern Italy. As far as we have been able to determine, every person in the United States with the last name of Segna is, in fact, related to me, as can be traced on our family tree. Can't say quite the same for my current last name, Jones!

A lovely book, a serious book, an important book to share with your little (or not so little) ones. 

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