German Immigrants in America: An Interactive History Adventure

Book review by Edna Boardman, Bismarck, North Dakota

Raum, Elizabeth. German Immigrants in America: An Interactive History Adventure. Mankato, Minnesota: Capstone Press, 2008.

This little book opens when “you,” a German-speaking immigrant, approach the eastern shore of America. Then it divides into three sections, each of which tells of the experiences of three waves of German immigrants: Germans who came to Texas in the 1940s, Germans from Russia who homesteaded in Dakota Territory in the 1880s, and what it was like to be a German immigrant during World War I, 1914-1918. But each group’s story does not just flow from beginning to end as a coherent narrative. At several points, the reader is invited to go to one page or another where “you” make a decision that leads to an altered but historically plausible outcome. Though the book is written for a young audience, it is not a child’s depiction. Some options lead to prosperity; in several instances, they lead to death. The author does not sidestep the presence of anti-German feelings during World War I. German immigrants and their families were loyal to their new homeland during very stressful times.

Of special interest to Germans from Russia readers is that their story emerges as one of the authentic streams of German immigration. This is no small thing for a book that is likely to find its way into many school libraries and will be read by young people with few or no connections to German immigrants and their experiences. Elizabeth Raum shows clearly that German farmers who had originally lived in Russia made a significant contribution to American life by developing the central prairie and producing food.

Designed for the junior high aged reader, this book, which is one volume of a series on historical movements, is a bit too gimmicky for this reviewer. The cover promises 3 story paths, 46 choices, and 17 endings. Yet, it fits with a popular type of youth book in which the reader can choose outcomes along the way and is very carefully put together. Raum has woven in a great deal of information. There are archival photographs, maps, a time line, glossary, study helps, and a final chapter that pulls together the overall impact of German immigration.

Permission to use any images from the GRHC website may be requested by contacting Michael M. Miller