- Purchase/rental options available:
The Catholic Historical Review 90.1 (2004) 162
[Access article in PDF]
Gustaff, Leona Shierant. Singing the Tears: The Immigrant Journey. (Frederick, Maryland: Albert J. Gustaff, P. O. Box 4294, 21705-4294. 2003. Pp. xxxii, 206.)
Tears is a genealogical family album for a casual perusal on a coffee table. In contrast, e.g., adult children of Lebanese and Armenian descent have preserved a coherent narrative of two mothers' immigrant journeys, respectively. Cf. Eugene P. Tinory, Journey from Ammeah [on a Lebanese immigrant teenager] (Brattleboro, Vermont: Amana Books, 1986); Naomi Topalian, Dust to Destiny [about an elderly Armenian immigrant] (private publication, 41 Circle Road, Lexington, Massachusetts 02173, 1986). Leona Gustaff's collection is a kaleidoscopic variation of this useful genre of private, self-subsidized publications.
Nearly a decade in the making, Tears profits greatly with profuse illustrations that animate the dozens of vignettes in straightforward story-telling, ancestor by ancestor. Subject and name indices enhance the value of this monograph, as do some favorite family recipes and extensive family trees. The handsome layout and large, clear typeface make for easy reading.
Short, unpretentious chapters are interlaced with notes to enlighten a reader unfamiliar with East Central European history. Local descriptions of the drudgery of life and toil in Pennsylvanian coal mines furnish a video scenario. The text is hampered by the lack of diacritical markings, now readily available on computer programs.
The contents are familiar to the professional historian who can benefit, nevertheless, from the account of many witnesses conjured up by the author to give sight, sound, and smell to otherwise dry statistics and impersonal facts. The chief appeal of this charming book is to senior readers of immigrant children whose personal experiences greatly parallel those of Leona Gustaff. Through her, one can relive much of one's past, and perhaps be inspired to compile one's own detailed genealogy.