Lucy, child of Italian immigrant parents, spent hot summers picking in the bean fields, but she gave her heart to immigrant child Francis, who grew up to be a dashing sailor stationed in Pearl Harbor on the most fateful day that "will live in infamy" and a place of "hell on earth." Karen Foresti Hempson's narrative, Bean Pickers, American Immigrant Portraits, is history come alive through the authentic voices and pictures of these hard-working, first and second generations of Italian American families, the author's extended family.
As history and personal narrative, Bean Pickers is a tough book to put down, reader moving from the bean fields around Utica and Rome, New York to the fate of a newsy, to a cave-in which traps the family patriarch, to a clever smuggler during Prohibition, all the way to a recent wave of immigrants and their struggles in contemporary Utica. A perfect book for middle schoolers, teachers, and historians, Bean Pickers offers much needed perspective on the current discussions centered on immigration.
More than anything, however, Bean Pickers is a love story, one in which Lucy and Francis somehow find each other and raise a family, including the author. As history, this is a rich and heart-warming text. As personal story, Bean Pickers is a ride you never want to end.
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