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This post contains affiliate links you can use to purchase the book. If you buy the book using that link, I will receive a small commission from the sale.The Girl Immigrant by Patricia Ruiz Steele, Patricia Steele
Published by Plumeria Press on April 17th 2013
Source: reader's favorite
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Manuela's small Spanish village buzzed with tales of life in a faraway land free from starvation and angst. In the early months of 1911, with nine children and four Silvan Hernandez (and Gonzales) families, they boarded a British immigrant steamer, the SS Orteric, bound for the Hawaiian Islands. Sugar plantation owners wanted immigrants from Portugal and Spain to work their plantations.
They paid for passage, guaranteed work for them, school for their children. In a starving and poor time where the military brandished a strong arm, the families took a gamble along with other families in their village; a mass exodus of friends and family---leaving everything they knew---sometimes everyone they loved. Manuela's epic immigration story is filled with tragedy and triumph.
Chosen to watch over her brothers as the family makes their way south to La Linea at the Rock of Gibraltar, she was sure her heart would break into pieces. Living through the trials of traveling through Spain to the coast, a place she'd never seen was a nightmare and a dream. An ocean, ships, big cities and fears waited. The quagmire of traveling in steerage for two months added to her grief but the beauty and world of flowers in Hawaii lured her into bits of happiness she hadn't imagined. And meeting her young man in Hawaii and finding him again in California gave her the intensity of life that the trek from Spain promised.
This lively memoir is based on the author's grandmother; Spain and Hawaii come alive and encompass five generations, a narrative non-fiction laced with embellishment."
The Girl Immigrant, by Patricia Ruiz Steele, is a wonderful biography of the author’s family, specifically Manuela, the author’s grandmother. Manuela’s family comes from Spain, and they were promised a new life, education for their children, homes and jobs, if they immigrated to Hawaii to work on sugar plantations. After a few years living in Hawaii, the family chooses to continue their adventures by moving to California. The book is filled with family photos, legal documents, and other historical elements to round out the family history, from the family’s early days to Spain, to moving to the United States. Patricia Steele writes with a lot of passion for her family history, and gives you a sense of what life was like in early 20th century Hawaii and California.
Manuela’s adventures as “The Girl Immigrant” was heartbreaking at times. I really felt like I got to know her family and her life as she shared her adventures with me. I felt her pain and heartbreak when she did, and shared her joys when she was happy. How a multi-generational family separates from one another, knowing that they will never see or hear from each other again, and move halfway across the world with a bunch of young kids and babies, with next to no earthly possessions, I’ll never know. The “Girl Immigrant” brings you back into another time and place, reads more as a biography and a history book then a memoir, and will make you wonder if the author will write a sequel on the rest of Manuela’s life.
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