rusq: Vol. 51 Issue 1: p. 74
Sources: Encyclopedia of American Immigration
Eric Novotny

Eric Novotny, Humanities Librarian, The Pennsylvania State University, University Park

This collection is aimed at high school and undergraduate students seeking context on issues relating to immigration, both historical and contemporary. The stated goal in the Introduction is “to answer all the questions about immigration in American history that students are likely to ask” (ix). Each essay begins with a brief definition, a date, when appropriate, and a statement of significance before the topic is discussed in greater detail. This format is helpful for students who want to quickly determine the “what, when, and why” before deciding whether to read further.

The 525 entries are concise (ranging from 300 to 3000 words), easily comprehensible, and largely jargon-free. About one-third provide overviews of broad subjects such as Art, Labor, or Television. These topical essays highlight immigrants’ experiences and contributions within these fields. There is also treatment of specific national groups (Cambodians, Italians, Haitians, etc.), histories of U.S. States, and discussions of significant laws, treaties, and court cases. In choice of content the volumes under review are hardly groundbreaking, many of the same topics appear in the publication Immigration in U.S. History (Salem Press, 2006) also edited by Dr. Bankston. The present work is both more up-to-date, and, on the whole, better written. The writing style reflects the goal of anticipating and answering questions. The authors have done an admirable job distilling complex topics so as to make them readily understandable. Every essay concludes with a selective bibliography for students who wish to explore the topic further. Useful appendixes include an annotated list of U.S. Supreme Court rulings, a chronology of federal laws on immigration (up to 2009), and descriptions of federal government agencies concerned with immigration.

Salem Press is offering purchasers of the print set free access to the online version through 12/31/2011. Libraries that purchase the print and wish to use the online can do so via IP authentication, a referring URL, or username/password access. Access outside the library can be granted with a Remote Access password. After 2011, there is a $100 annual hosting fee which is waived for libraries that purchase a new title in the Salem History collection. Additional details about Salem Online at:

The online version includes all the content of the print, with the obvious advantage of full-text searching. The topical categories from the print index are reproduced allowing users to scan for essays grouped under broad headings (Court Cases, Health, Economics, or Politics, for example). The helpful appendixes and indexes are included and the cross-references are conveniently hyperlinked.

While no single work can possibly answer all questions about immigration, the editors have succeeded in compiling a collection that meets student needs. The inclusion of online access increases the appeal to students who may be reluctant to consult print reference works.

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