Fictions

I remember a long time ago, maybe 40 years ago, when I had the bookstore in Enterprise and waited each summer for the Josephys to arrive from the East. Betty would drop Alvin off at the bookstore and go visiting. Alvin would begin browsing the “local” section, and ask me about all the new titles. He loved the small family stories, the diaries, and the amateurs who wrote about the railroads, the post offices, a piece of land or a family tree.

He often derided the academic historians and the writers of textbook and popular histories of the West, who, when they wrote about Indians at all, passed on old tropes and omitted most things that made the Indians intelligent beings intent on making the most out of desperate situations. Read The Article

The oldest story–more on refugees

The pictures and stories of refugees in Turkey, Jordan, Greece, Hungary, Croatia, Austria, Germany and more bring a brilliant image of mass migration into sharp and heart tugging focus. At first look and sound it seems like something new, and the proximate causes—wars and uprisings in Syria, Iraq, Afghanistan, Sudan, and Libya, and the accompanying refugee crisis in Europe fill and refill the media and our brain space daily.


But migrations, invasions, expulsions, and other mass movements of humankind go back to the Israelites; to Persian, Alexandrian, Mongol, Hun, and Ottoman invasions; to the Inquisition and expulsion of Jews from Europe, to the Holocaust. In my short lifetime Jews fleeing Germany were denied entry into our country, and Jews, with Western guilt and support, made a new country and displaced Arabs; in my lifetime African peoples liberated from colonial oppression have risen up, killed, and chased each other from one place to another; and wars in Vietnam, Laos, and Cambodia
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Nation of immigrants?

“Nation of immigrants”–the phrase and its variations get tossed about by both political parties (the recent Republican convention was filled with it) by historians, and everyday people trying to explain who we Americans are.
Some large number of us who live in the United States today are indeed immigrants, and most of the rest of us can trace ancestry to points in Asia, Europe, Africa, and, increasingly, Central and South America. On the East Coast, it is a badge of honor to trace European ancestry to the Mayflower, and I imagine the Daughters of the American Revolution, who require an ancestor involved in the War of Independence for membership, still exist (though I doubt they have the clout they had when they refused their Washington D.C. hall to the great African-American singer, Marian Anderson).

But as our friend Alvin Josephy reminded often, Europeans were met by real people living here. Columbus met, enslaved, and in some cases destroyed indigenous peoples Read The Article