Portrayals of Immigrants in Trade Books
(1880-1930s & 1980-2010s)
Florida Atlantic University
Immigrants are a part of America’s founding and history. Until this study, it was unclear how immigrants have been historically portrayed in youth American trade books. Utilizing a discourse analysis approach, this study offered a critical and comparative examination of the portrayal of first-generation immigrants, the authors’ perspectives, and the historical evolution of American trade books written during two peak United States immigration eras (1880-1930s and 1980-2010s). After examining 98 books written over 100 years, findings indicated in both peak immigration eras, immigrants faced similar problems; first-generation immigrants were insensitively criticized and viewed as subpar individuals by Americans. As a whole, books were mostly tales of assimilation and mistreatment in the United States. Since youths’ ideas of people and cultural groups are formed by what they learn from not only social interaction but also the media, it is important for books to provide meaningful representations of immigrants.
Key words: immigrant, immigration, trade book, multicultural education, stereotypes, social studies