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The Long Way Home: An American Journey from Ellis Island to the Great War

3.86  ·  Rating Details  ·  237 Ratings  ·  54 Reviews
The United States has always been a nation of immigrants—never more so than in 1917 when the nation entered the First World War. Of the 2.5 million soldiers who fought with U.S. armed forces in the trenches of France and Belgium, some half a million—nearly one out of every five men—were immigrants. In The Long Way Home, David Laskin, author of the prizewinning history The ...more
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Published March 23rd 2010 by Tantor Media (first published 2010)
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Jimmie Kepler
Mar 17, 2012 Jimmie Kepler rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
David Laskin's "The Long Way Home: An American Journey from Ellis Island to the Great War" tells the story of the millions of immigrants who came to the United States at the end of the nineteenth and beginning of the twentieth centuries. He focuses on twelve men beginning with the back stories of their families’ plight in Europe. We learn of the struggles they had with daily survival in Europe. We experience their decisions to immigrate and the gauntlet of risks they encountered just getting out ...more
Feb 17, 2015 Sarah rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
The running joke with people who know my reading tastes is that my favorite books are those focused on the Canadian World War I experience at home and in combat. Not too particular, right? This interest doesn't really make sense. While I do like reading both fiction and NF World War I/II books, I get bogged down in the specific movements of armies and battles but am fascinated with the motivating factors and stories of individuals. Which brings us back to so many fought in really ho ...more
Mark Mortensen
Mar 05, 2014 Mark Mortensen rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: wwi
This book focused upon 12 males, who for the most part immigrated to America around the turn of the 20th Century from countries such as Russia, Ukraine, Italy, Norway, Poland, Ireland and Austria-Hungary seeking common goals of greater career opportunity and to a certain extent freedom and liberty. Departing Ellis Island the individuals scattered throughout the United States to connect with family members and others. With different ethnicity, language, culture and religious beliefs they tried to ...more
Sep 04, 2015 Tony rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: history
THE LONG WAY HOME. (2010). David Laskin. ****.
A critical but affectionate look at the lives of twelve immigrants to the U.S. in the years just before WW I who in spite of many of them not being citizens, were inducted into and served with the U.S. military on European battlefields. The author approached his topic with the intent of showing that immigrants during this period of our history quickly became “Americans,” even before they had been able to take advantage of the benefits of this country
Jan 16, 2016 Kathy rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: non-fiction, ww1
This book tells the stories of 12 men who immigrated to America near the beginning of the 20th century, why they came here, the troubles they faced, and how they found themselves soon returning to Europe to fight for America in WW1. Sometimes I got confused about who was who, but, in general, they were all proud that they fought and helped win the war. 90,000 Italians returned to Italy to fight for the American services, 43 languages were represented in the US Army, and 3/4 of the recruits that ...more
Cindy S
Jul 24, 2010 Cindy S rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
This book takes a different perspective of the immigrant experience. The author follows 12 immigrants on their journey from the "old country" (Italy, Norway, Poland, Ireland) and follows them on their journeys to America and then back to Europe as soldiers during WWI. It's a testament to what the human soul can endure for freedom (as immigrants) and what courage they displayed for their adoptive country. Incredible detail of the battles of WWI, often drawing from military excerpts and personal t ...more
Laura Duggan
It was fascinating to read about the many immigrants and their stories at the turn of the century. Many of the ideas and feelings toward immigration haven't changed much in the past 100 years - only who the immigrants are. I thought the author tried to cover too many men's stories and should have focused deeper on a smaller number. But he did a great job of telling their reasons for immigrating and then joining the army to fight in and/or against their old countries.
Jul 26, 2010 Donny rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Initially it was tough to keep track of the 12 different immigrants Laskin was writing about. However, as the book progressed i figured out who was who. An excellent read and at times very emotional. Laskin descriptions of the WWI battlefield is excellent and in my opinion the some of best parts of the book.
Sep 29, 2010 Chris rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
David Laskin has written an incredibly readable engaging account of twelve immigrants who served in the United States military during World War I. The book seeks to detail how immigrants to the United States valiantly served in the armed forces of a country that many of them weren't even citizens of when the United States entered World War I.

The majority of the individuals Laskin chooses as the subjects of his book served in the U.S. Army. Laskin chose only one Marine and no one who served aboar
Laskin uses the stories of 12 immigrants (well, one was born and raised in Wisconsin but if the town he grew up in was pretty well entirely Polish and English was his third language, I'm willing to lump him with the other immigrants), how they came to America and how and why they went back to Europe to fight in the Great War. At first it was a little tough to track the individual stories but I eventually became quite engrossed and found myself flipping back to the photo section again and again, ...more
Homer H Blass
In this book David Laskin takes 13 individual who came to America as immigrants in the high tide of foreign immigration. He discusses problems in their country that caused them to leave; how they got to America; how they assimilated or tried to; the effect that the outbreak of war in 1914 had upon them or their relatives still living in Europe; the impact that American entry in World War 1 had upon them; why they joined the army or got drafted; their pre-war training; their combat experiences; t ...more
Sep 12, 2014 J. rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: wwi, vine
"They had gone into the army expecting Jews to be cowards, Italians to be thieves, Germans to be spies, Poles to be lazy, Irish to be disloyal - but even in the thick of combat they stopped to acknowledge how wrong they had been." (pg 245) But this isn't just a war story - it's a story of immigrants who came to America seeking a better life. Some found it, while others only traded locations. While focusing mostly on 12 individuals, this book tells the stories and experiences of some who emigrate ...more
Jun 20, 2010 Tim rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Usually lurking somewhere in today's ongoing immigration debate is an idealized notion of times when the vast majority of those coming to our shores were Europeans. One of those periods was the early part of the 20th Century when eastern, central and southern Europeans came en masse. More than 1 1/4 million immigrants arrived in 1907 alone. By 1910 foreign-born residents accounted for almost 15 percent of the country's total population. By 1914 one of every three Americans was an immigrant or th ...more
Kristi Thielen
Sep 14, 2013 Kristi Thielen rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
A look at the experience of American immigrants who enlisted to fight in World War I, thereby returning to the very continent they had so recently fled, to risk their lives in an effort to prove they were worthy of being called "Americans".

Laskin personalizes the experience by following 12 men, all of whom have remarkable stories, 2 of whom were decorated with the Medal of Honor, 3 of whom lost their lives.

The book also provides an engrossing look at America itself during the first 2 decades o
Jan 28, 2014 Audra rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: jean
Recommended to Audra by: antoinette
first reaction, while reading: Laskin brings the people alive. That plus all the info has --I'm surprised and happy to say-- changed my understanding and picture of the US 1890-1920. A new and vivid sense of diversity at that time, and how the "melting pot" metaphor developed. Also arouses my curiosity about my own Swedish-Finnish grandparents; I wish I knew more about their emigration and immigration. Later: I just skipped 100 pages describing battle details. I've read too much of that stuff in ...more
Jan 23, 2016 Rock rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
The stories told in this book are many, compelling, often episodic and incomplete, almost exclusively masculine, and only sometimes intersecting. The author mostly loses his overall narrative in the chronological recounting of these engrossing war stories, but a reader with context should be able to weave them into a picture of the schizophrenic attitude of the US towards its immigrants and the unpredictable effects it's had on race relations and patriotism.
Apr 17, 2010 Michelle rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: history
I wasn't sure at first that I'd be able to keep the 12+ immigrants profiled in this book all straight, but quickly became so involved in this very well done book that I had no problem keeping track of these amazing men and their stories. What an innovative way to look at the immigrant experience in America. Most of the men profiled here came from Europe--Italy, Russia, Poland, Ireland--lived here for a few years, and shortly found themselves fighting for their new country in a miserable war. Whi ...more
Lauren Albert
Aug 29, 2011 Lauren Albert rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: history-american
Touching, eloquent, sometimes even lyrical. Laskin shows that many Americans were not melted into the American melting pot but forged into Americans in battle. Stuck in cold wet muddy trenches, being shelled by an enemy, where the person next to you was born took on less importance than how well they stuck by you when you needed them. And those new immigrants took on a (sometimes new) idea of themselves not only as Americans but good and proud Americans. I'm afraid that Laskin sometimes errs on ...more
Jan 17, 2013 Helen-Louise rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
A fascinating book about immigrants who came to the US in the years immediately prior to WWI, and then ended upfighting in the American military in that war. Some were drafted, many enlisted. Some feared that they would be fighting against family members who had remained in "the old country," others hated that country so much that they were eager to fight against it. Many spoke virtually no English, and the military had to find a way to deal with that. Prior to WWI, there was MUCH prejudice in t ...more
Louise Reavis
Nov 19, 2015 Louise Reavis rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Difficult to read because of graphic war description but well worth it. Now I know why they call it the forgotten sad that so many lost their lives for so little. And truly shows the courage displayed and debt we owe to immigrant Americans.
Jun 22, 2010 Kim rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Another fascinating book by Laskin. This one looks primarily at 12 individual immigrants (and their families) how they arrived in American and ultimately fought in WWI, often before becoming US citizens. He covers the period from about 1880 thru the "Great" war and finishes up with how these individuals fared after the war..those who survived. It reinspired by interest in genealogy - it is amazing the amount of information he turned up on the individuals included in the book. He uses these few i ...more
Kathy Halsan
Feb 24, 2011 Kathy Halsan rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Wow! There are many books with "Long Way Home" in the title and I have just read 2 of them. This one tells about the young men who came to America from Europe, Russia, etc. and then ended up going back as American Soldiers in WWI. Laskin is a good historical author who told this story and it needed to be told. I know many things about WWII as many in our generation do, but not so much about the trenches. We also learn about integration of nationalties in the military and the citizenship awarded ...more
Jan 04, 2015 Martin rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
This is the Horatio Alger version of history writ small. Every immigrant is from a terrible place- every vision of America is amazing. I did like some of the WWI stuff- but it gets old fast...
Anna Marie
I read this because my stepfather's friend's uncle was one of the subjects. Excellent research and details, but not told very compellingly. A bit tedious.
Sep 09, 2012 Kay rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Having visited Ellis Island twice, I am looking forward to burrowing into this book. Note to self: follow up with a visit to the Tenement Museum in the Lower East Side.

Post-book thoughts: A good premise for a book. The intended audience is the casual reader of history, so while the style is not overly academic, neither is it too simple. The immigrants-cum-soldiers each have unique stories, and they leave you impressed with their earnestness in, first of all, leaving their native countries and, s
Brittany LeMoine
I read this book because it was assigned for my history class, but found that I actually enjoyed it. It's a nonfiction book about immigrants in World War I. It easily could have been an extremely boring novel, but the author does a fantastic job of making something I normally enjoy interesting with a writing style that I loved. However, I did I have trouble keeping up with all of the men we were following the stories of.
Nov 08, 2012 Sandy rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
An American Journey From Ellis Island To The Great War is the Sub Title. David Laskin follows 12 immigrants and documents their experience in World War 1 and after, if they survived, through military records, letters home, interviews and contributions from family memories. The photographs in the center were particularly moving for me. His premise is that the war brought immigrants together and created the emotional melting pot that has become the American heritage.

I found it well written, histo
Margaret Sankey
WWI History as a group biography of 12 men, born in the 1890s in Italy, the Jewish Pale of Russia, Ireland, Norway and Slovakia who emigrated to America and, as hopeful citizens, served in the US Army. Laskin reconstructs from family history the circumstances of their motivation to move (dire poverty, conscription in the Czar's army, etc.), the journey to Ellis Island, military services, and perhaps most poignantly, their post-war fight to be recognized as full citizens in the face of the Klan, ...more
Jun 27, 2014 Kurt rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
A tragic and gripping side about immigration I had never known.
Jan 21, 2013 Christopher rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: favorites
A very thought-provoking and moving look at the lives of immigrant soldiers in the AEF during World War I. Laskin's style is similar to that of Laura Hillenbrand--thoroughly researched but made so engrossing to read with the personal and human side he shows for the soldiers who are the subject of his work. He follows several men from the countries they were born in through their immigration to the U.S., their subsequent enlistment or drafting into the armed forces, war experience, and, for those ...more
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Born in Brooklyn and raised in Great Neck, New York, I grew up hearing stories that my immigrant Jewish grandparents told about the “old country” (Russia) that they left at the turn of the last century. When I was a teenager, my mother’s parents began making yearly trips to visit our relatives in Israel, and stories about the Israeli family sifted down to me as well. What I never heard growing up ...more
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