When we sent out a call for stories about immigration and immigrants, the pieces poured in – many more pieces than we can use in one issue. We chose a varied batch to publish now and saved many for later issues. Typical of Persimmon Tree readers, they interpreted the topic in more ways than any of us had imagined: Harrowing stories of escape. Inspiring stories of acclimation and the people who helped them. Stories of people who preferred to return home. Contemporary stories; historical accounts. Long stories and short.
Our featured poet, Marilyn Nelson, gives us accounts of the African-American experience. Not immigrant stories, not even the euphemistic “forced immigration” stories. Rather, she forcefully reminds us of the trials and contributions of descendants of enslaved Africans to America’s history and culture.
The search for artists (female and over 60) who were immigrants or who portrayed immigrants in their work was hampered by my inability to ask Google the right question. Luckily, Elaine Lorenz, the artist featured in the Winter issue, alerted me to Ellen Singer. What I did find online, however, is this story, a story that is the very definition of irony:
The model for the Statue of Liberty—yes, the one in New York Harbor that has greeted immigrants for generations—was an Arab woman. Frédéric-Auguste Bartholdi, the designer of the statue, loved all things Egyptian. He wanted to commemorate the opening of the Suez Canal with a monument that was an Arab woman, dressed as a peasant, holding a torch above her head. His plan was scotched when the ruler of Egypt went bankrupt. What to do? He had also intended to give a gift to the United States in time to celebrate the centennial of the American Revolution. Voila! How about turning her into a goddess of liberty dressed in a toga?