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Immigrants are the “yeast” whose rise renews U.S. cities.

By Edward B. Shils

How Immigrants Renew Our Country, Our Economy, and Our Values
By Joel Millman, C’76
New York: Viking Penguin, 1997. 369 pp. $24.95 (cloth).
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There is no stronger symbol of our nation’s immigrant history than Ellis Island. A few hundred yards north of the Statue of Liberty in New York Harbor, it remains an emblem of, as well as a monument to, the great traditions of freedom and opportunity in America.
   Yet resentment against immigrants goes back to the colonial days, when Benjamin Franklin railed against the large German impact upon Pennsylvania. Later, during the mid-19th-century Irish immigrant wave, some accused the Irish of “papist plots.” The Chinese Exclusion Act of 1882 sparked a series of racist statutes to keep Asians from entering the United States.
   America has always been schizoid about absorbing immigrants, particularly when jobs have been scarce and taxes have been high to fund public schools and welfare systems. This issue confronts us currently in California, Texas, New York, and many other states.
   Today, a debate rages over whether to scrap the key promises of the 1965 Immigration Reform Act, which liberalized former restrictive statutes and opened the doors to hundreds of thousands of refugees — most of them from Latin America, Africa, the Caribbean, and Asia. Many native-born Americans of all races contend that these new arrivals steal jobs, clog the welfare rolls, and inflict soaring costs upon public schools, with bilingual programs contributing to deficits.
   Joel Millman’s meticulously-researched and authoritative book, The Other Americans, provides legitimate profiles and strong statistics to support his contention that the case against the current wave of immigrants is weak and unwarranted. Just as the 12 million immigrants who passed through Ellis Island between 1892 and 1954 — and the millions more who came through other U.S. seaports — contributed to American society as production workers, farmers, engineers, doctors, lawyers, and entrepreneurs, so does the current wave of Hispanic and Asian immigrants perform and produce similar miracles.
   When immigration restrictionists denounce non-white immigrants as a threat to American culture, they suggest that America has a definable ethnicity. It does not, according to Millman. “America has been Latino since the 1830s,” he states. “Indeed it went to war to become Latino, absorbing half of Mexico before 1850. Americans, likewise, became somewhat Asian later in the same century, bringing Hawaii, and for several decades, the Philippines into the nation.” In the Spanish-American War of 1898, the United States also acquired Cuba and Puerto Rico. Thus, for years before the mass of immigrants began arriving from Southern and Eastern Europe, America already had millions of citizens who traced their roots to Africa, Mesoamerica, and the Far East.
   Millman sees the new immigrants as a “superior breed” whose willingness to leave their homelands for a strange and frequently hostile environment was stimulated by their hopes of improving the lives of their families. According to Millman, their crime rate is remarkably low, and contrary to allegations that they are a fiscal burden, they generate more tax revenues than they receive in subsidies and services.
   An award-winning Latin American correspondent, Millman was formerly an editor at Forbes magazine and is now assigned to the Wall Street Journal’s Mexican bureau. Using vivid stories of people from Mexico, Brazil, Africa, and Asia, he introduces the reader to the families that make up the real immigrant America and who are pouring vital life blood into our impoverished urban centers.
   He recognizes the “American Alchemy” — essentially foreign in its composition — as the essence of our world dominance: “Throughout American history,” the author points out, “the poor who made it rich were largely imported.” Millman sees immigrants as our oldest and most dependable pool of “risers,” a kind of demographic yeast that guarantees shared prosperity. He calls them “villagers” entering and renewing our cities, repeating a pattern of self-cleansing as old as civilization itself.
   In New York, for instance, Millman describes an apartment full of pizzeros, Mexican migrants who deliver pizza for cash tips only, and give a landlord in a decrepit tenement the beginning of a stable, predictable revenue stream. A building full of pizzeros draws more tenants to surrounding buildings. Those tenants stock a neighborhood with consumers, who, in turn, inspire a tortilleria owner to buy an empty lot next to his factory, and to open a store to sell other items to his growing customer base. As the neighborhood begins to prosper, real estate that had been abandoned is restored to the city’s tax rolls.
   Millman disagrees with the notion that immigrants create unfair competition for existing citizens. Americans already face stiff competition, both at home and abroad. The surest route to prosperity is to bring the competition here, and find a way to get the best players onto the home team. He states:
   “To do otherwise is to do nothing, and let the current uncertainty about immigrants and their role in American society deteriorate into something worse — xenophobia, racism, the clamor for policies that overtly discriminate on the basis of ethnicity or origin. We have resisted such threats before, and we must resist them now. Our future is being born today in a village somewhere far away. Our welfare depends on the quality of our welcome when that future arrives.”

Dr. Edward B. Shils, W’36, G’37, Gr’40, L’86, GL’90, GrL’97, is the George W. Taylor Professor Emeritus of Entrepreneurial Studies at the Wharton School, as well as the founder and emeritus director of the Sol C. Snider Entrepreneurial Center.

A selection of recent books by alumni and faculty, or otherwise of interest to the University community. Descriptions are compiled from information supplied by the authors and publishers.

GAY MONEY: Your Personal Guide to Same-Sex Strategies for Financial Security, Strength, and Success
By Per Larson, WG’72.
New York: DTP Trade Paperbacks, 1997. 296 pp., $12.95.
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   This guide to financial planning and money management identifies the unique advantages and hidden challenges facing gay men and lesbians — and their money — in the straight world. Larson, a New York-based financial adviser, draws on cases from his own practice to answer such questions as: Are there hidden costs to gay marriage? Why doesn’t gay consumer activism pay? What is the one, jointly held asset that causes the most trouble when a gay couple splits up? He also addresses the specific financial decisions facing anyone living with HIV/AIDS.

By Carole Bernstein, C’81.
Brooklyn, N.Y.: Hanging Loose Press, 1997. 80 pp., $12.00 (paper); $20.00 (cloth).
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   Bernstein, whose poems have been published widely in literary periodicals, confronts domestic pain and loss with an unblinking eye in her first full collection of poems. Poet and critic J.D. McClatchy described Familiar as “an exhilarating book, quickened by blood-bright longing and a restless intelligence � bursting with life, and with the art that has transfigured that life into poems the shape of a reader’s own heart.” Daniel Hoffman, emeritus professor of English at Penn, called it “a memorable first book.” (Bernstein is married to Gazette editor John Prendergast, C’80.)

AMERICAN WORK VALUES: Their Origin And Development
By Paul Bernstein, Gr’55.
Albany, N.Y.: State University of New York Press, 1997. 368 pp., $19.95.
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   This book examines the broad shifts in American work values from their European origins to the present. It analyzes shifts from work as salvation to work as opportunity and alienation, and concludes with a more recent focus on self-fulfilling employment in a context of industrial downsizing. The book also deals with the debates related to work and welfare that simmered during these transformations. Bernstein is an adjunct professor of management, former dean of graduate studies, and former dean of liberal arts at the Rochester Institute of Technology.

“NEW RAIMENTS OF SELF”: African American Clothing in the Antebellum South
By Helen Bradley Foster, Gr’94.
New York: New York University Press, 1997. 320 pp., $19.95 (paper); $46.00 (cloth).
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   This book examines the clothing worn by African Americans in the southern United States during the 30 years before the American Civil War. Drawing on a wide range of sources, most notably oral narratives recorded in the 1930s, this account shows that African Americans demonstrated a thorough knowledge of the role clothing played in demarcating age, sex, status, work, recreation, as well as special secular and sacred events. Testimonies offer proof of African Americans’ vast technical skills in producing cloth and clothing, which served both as a fundamental reflection of their Afrocentric craftsmanship and aesthetic sensibilities, and as a reaction to their particular place in American society. Foster is a teaching specialist in the art history department at the University of Minnesota, Minneapolis-St. Paul.

By Bernard H. Ross, W’55, Cornelius Kerwin, and A. Lee Fritschler.
Sun Lakes, Ariz.: Thomas Horton & Daughters, 1996. 155 pp., $12.95
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   The third edition of How Washington Works provides information for business executives and business students who need to better understand the complexities of government decision-making. A new chapter on intergovernmental relations has been added because of the political struggle between a Democratic President and Republican Congress. Ross, professor and chair of the Department of Public Administration at American University, previously co-wrote Urban Politics: Power in Metropolitan America.

By Gary Ebbs, Faculty.
Cambridge, Mass.: Harvard University Press, 1997. 368 pp., $42.50.
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   To understand central topics in the philosophy of language and mind, Ebbs contends, we must investigate them from our perspective as participants in shared linguistic practices; but our efforts at adopting this perspective are limited by our lingering loyalties to metaphysical realism and scientific naturalism. Ebbs, assistant professor of philosophy, works to loosen hold of these views by exposing their roots and developing a different way of looking at our linguistic practices.

RAPHAEL SEMMES: The Philosophical Mariner
By Warren F. Spencer, G’50, Gr’55.
Tuscaloosa, Ala.: The University of Alabama Press, 1997. 252 pp., $37.95.
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   Naval hero for all the South, Raphael Semmes sailed two famous Confederate raiders. From 1862 to 1864, he captured more enemy merchant ships than had any other cruiser captain in maritime history. Most biographers of Semmes have concentrated on his Civil War exploits. Spencer, emeritus professor of history at the University of Georgia, also investigates the intellectual development of Semmes and the complex nature of the man who referred to himself as a “philosophical mariner.”

By Leo Steinberg, Faculty.
Chicago: The University of Chicago Press, 1997.
417 pp., $29.95.
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   First published in 1983, this book restored visibility to the sexual component, repressed for centuries, in thousands of revered Christian images. Renaissance art, both north and south of the Alps, produced a large body of devotional imagery in which the genitalia of the Christ Child, or of the dead Christ, received demonstrative emphasis. Steinberg, the Benjamin Franklin Professor Emeritus of the History of Art, finds the intention of the artists to have been deeply religious and orthodox: Christ’s potency as the New Adam — a potency both requisite and unexercised — is shown to be crucial to the theology of the Incarnation, Passion, and Resurrection. This second edition expands upon the original text with more confirming images, replies to critics of the first book, and some new topics.

JONATHAN E. RHOADS, M.D.: Quaker Sense and Sensibility
in the World of Surgery
By John L. Rombeau, Faculty, and Donna Muldoon.
Philadelphia: Hanley & Belfus, Inc.: 1997. 308 pp., $35.00.
   Rhoads, GrM’40, Hon’60, professor of clinical surgery and a former provost of the University, has significantly affected the lives of thousands of students, physicians, patients, politicians, educators, and colleagues. His long career coincided with a period of surgical renaissance, to which he contributed greatly: He and his colleagues are credited with the discovery of total intravenous feeding; he was one of the first to use antibiotics in surgery, vitamin K to stop bleeding, and coumadin to stop clotting. He is also world-renowned for his expertise in the treatment of cancer and malnutrition. Rombeau, a professor of surgery and an expert in the field of clinical nutrition, reviews Rhoads’s 90 years in detail, examining the role that his Quaker upbringing played in his achievements.

ABORTION AT WORK: Ideology and Practice in a Feminist Clinic
By Wendy Simonds, C’84.
New Brunswick, N.J.: Rutgers University Press, 1997. 280 pp., $16.95 (paper); $48.00 (cloth).
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   Simonds, an assistant professor in the Institute of Liberal Arts at Emory University, writes about the intersection of feminist identity and abortion politics. She spent nearly a year as a participant-observer at a feminist clinic that provided abortions, examining such issues as how the workers confronted opposition from protesters and whether feminism and bureaucracy can coexist productively.

By Ellen Summerfield, CW’70.
Yarmouth, Me.: Intercultural Press, 1997. 196 pp., $15.95.
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   Summerfield, director of international programs at Linfield College in McMinnville, Ore., explores the major issues confronting multicultural America, seeking in the first part of her book to inform her readers and clarify such issues as stereotyping and the conflict it causes; the literary canon debate; political correctness; and more. The latter part of the book is devoted to laying out the concrete steps readers can take toward successful multicultural living.

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