Angel Island: Gateway to Gold Mountain is “Equally Evocative and Informative”

 by Genevieve S.

61-U1Lj5g8L._SX258_BO1,204,203,200_Angel Island, off the coast of California, was the port of entry for Asian immigrants to the United States between 1892 and 1940. Following the passage of legislation requiring the screening of immigrants, “the other Ellis Island” processed around one million people from Japan, China, and Korea. In  Angel Island: Gateway to Gold Mountain — drawing from memoirs, diaries, letters, and the “wall poems” discovered at the facility long after it closed — the nonfiction master Russell Freedman describes the people who came, and why; the screening process; detention and deportation; changes in immigration policy; and the eventual renaissance of Angel Island as a historic site open to visitors. Includes archival photos, source notes, bibliography, and index.



Until I read this book I never knew about Angel Island; otherwise known as “the other Ellis Island.”  This book is wonderfully informative and contains pictures, poems and personal accounts written by asian immigrants about the many difficulties faced by immigrants seeking entry to the United States in the early 1900’s.  My daughter and I were both fascinated by the wealth of information contained in this book and I feel that it is worth reading.  Angel Island tells a story that is an important part of our history and should not be forgotten.

For the 30 years it was in operation, from 1910-1940, Angel Island Immigration Station served as the first step for hundreds of thousands of people seeking a new home and a new life in the United States. It was a bleak, unwelcoming introduction to the new land, and for many immigrants, primarily those from China, it was also a detention center. Many Chinese were held there for weeks or months at a time while they endured lengthy interviews and invasive medical exams in order to prove that they could enter the U.S. Freedman’s inimitable style and approach to nonfiction writing shines in this accessible, thoughtful history of Angel Island and its legacy in the American immigration narrative. Detailed descriptions of the island, the actual building, the events that took place there, and the people who passed through its doors are sprinkled with the emotional poems, quotes, and other writings that were discovered covering the walls of the areas where the detainees were housed. These words provide not only a unique perspective of the immigrants, but also a context for what was happening in the broader world, specifically the racist, xenophobic attitudes encountered by many new arrivals. Complemented by photographs, artwork, and primary sources, Freedman’s writing offers up a strong, engaging introduction to the subject of a more diverse immigrant population and the obstacles that were put in its way. Equally evocative and informative, this is an excellent choice for middle school libraries.

“Carefully researched and clearly written.”

“This is a clearly written account of a lesser-known side of American immigration history that may add to readers’ understanding of current political debate.”
The Horn Book Magazine


From 1910 to 1940, the Angel Island Immigration Station processed approximately 1 million Asian immigrants entering into the US, leading to it sometimes being referred to as “The Ellis Island of the West”. Due to the restrictions of the Chinese Exclusion Act of 1882, many Chinese immigrants spent years on the island, waiting for entry. A fire destroyed the administration building in 1940, and subsequent immigration processing took place in San Francisco.

In 1964, the Chinese American community successfully lobbied the State of California to designate the immigration station as a State Landmark. Today, the Angel Island Immigration Station is a federally designated a National Historic Landmark.   It was renovated by the California State Parks, which re-opened February 16, 2009. Docent tours for school groups can be made by appointment.

This book is a thorough narrative, with personal vignettes and black and white archival photos.  It is reluctant-reader friendly. Most spreads feature one or more photographs, slightly oversized text, and generous margins, making this an appealing selection for readers who find nonfiction daunting.

“As immigration continues to be a major issue in America, this introduction to the Angel Island experience is overdue and, most of all, welcome.”
Kirkus, starred review


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