Thompson draws on scholarship from linguistic anthropology, education, history, and psychology to analyze her interviews with 35 German Americans (ages 61–95) from two rural Midwestern counties about their early lives. She asked her subjects about their families of origin and ethnic and linguistic identity, and how their own origin narratives influence their views about current immigration from Latin America. The 1918 mob lynching of Robert Prager, a young German immigrant accused of having socialist beliefs, in Collinsville, Illinois, thirty miles from the communities of Thompson's study, serves as the poignant opening of the brief historical overview, which explains the dramatic cultural losses as a result of involuntary linguistic and cultural assimilation. As the granddaughter of a German American from Clinton County (the locale of her study), Thompson had unique access to her subjects. She uses her position as both insider and outsider to understand the connections between past anti-German hysteria and hostility against immigrants today. She offers an effective critique of the “monolingual paradigm” in American schools and calls for more “intergenerational transmission.” Based on the author's PhD dissertation in education, this study will be an important resource in a wide range of disciplines. Recommended. Upper-division undergraduates and above.
Scholars interested in how German Americans experienced anti-German hostility in the United States during the world wars will find that Maris R. Thompson’s deeply researched book, Narratives of Immigration and Language Loss, persuasively argues for using narrative to analyze the early twentieth-century history of German Americans, who in 1914 constituted the largest non-English speaking immigrant group in the United States. Drawing on theories of linguistic anthropology, methods of narrative analysis, and ethnographic studies, Thompson demonstrates how narratives about anti-German sentiment shed light on central elements of the Americanization process: the discrimination and language loss that disrupted this ethnic group’s communities and silenced oral transmission of their experiences to subsequent generations.