Blog Archives

Immigration rises and falls

I found these charts of immigration from the U.S. Census Bureau. The green chart shows, among other things, the sudden drop in percentage of foreign born residents after 1910. Hostility to immigrants was reaching fever pitch, even among recent immigrants.

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Before Ellis Island

Before Ellis Island, immigrants entered the U.S. through Castle Gardens in the New York Harbor. As the illustration shows, the feel of the place was neither “castle” nor particularly “garden.” First built as a fort to defend the harbor from

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Inventing the past

Charlene Giannetti, reviewing this novel in Woman Around Town, says that Irma’s story allowed her to imagine her own grandmother’s immigration from Southern Italy, for her grandmother would not or could not share the specifics of her journey. I think

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Children in the mines

Irma is horrified by Madame Helene’s report of children in the mines of Alsace. Here is an image of a girl pulling a coal wagon. In Victorian England, she was a “putter” and the wagon a “hutchie.” Child labor in

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My grandfather’s grandmother

My grandfather was born in Ohio of a German mother and a father whose mother was Native American. He rarely spoke of her and from the tiny bits of story he let slip, I created this portrait: My grandfather’s grandmother

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Being an immigrant in Naples

My historical novel of immigration, When We Were Strangers, is set in the 1880s, when Irma Vitale leaves her mountain village in Southern Italy and comes to America. My “research” began in November, 1990, when I left Northern California to

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Shrinking the Golden Gate

When We Were Strangers is set in the early 1880’s. A few years later, rising immigration from Italy began to unleash what now seems astonishing, rabid anti-Italian prejudice of which this cartoon is, believe me, a relatively mild example. In

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We are immigrants

Today, Martin Luther King Day, I am reminded yet again of how uneasily our blended nation holds its diversity. Shortly after the time frame of my novel (1880s), researchers were hired to create tests “scientifically proving” that 80% of immigrants

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Irma’s ship, the S/S Servia

In When We Were Strangers, Irma crosses the Atlantic on the Servia. This was a real ship that received heavy use in transporting emigrants. I liked the name, but took the liberty of having the ship leave out of Naples

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Land of round doorknobs

Living in a foreign country has a strange way of reminding you of ridiculous trivia about your own country. Modern Italian doors have handles. I didn’t think much about it until an American I knew said he was going home

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Announcements

Sunday, May 6, 2pm reading from latest work at Hexagon Brewing Company, Knoxville, TN.

Thursday, May 10, 6-8 pm presentation on research on the historical novel, Blount County Library, Maryville, TN.

When We Were Strangers, Italian translation, to be presented in Pescasseroli, Italy, August 2018.

Recent Review
“Absorbing and layered with rich historical details, in Under the Same Blue Sky, Schoenewaldt weaves a tender and at times, heartbreaking story about German-Americans during World War I. With remarkable compassion, the author skillfully portrays conflicted loyalties, the search for belonging, the cruelty of war, and the resilience of the human spirit.”—Ann Weisgarber, author of The Promise and The Personal History of Rachel Dupree

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