The Best Book on Portuguese Immigration

Portuguese Spinner: An American Story, 1998

Stories of History, Culture and Life from Portuguese Americans in Southeastern New England Edited by Marsha L. McCabe and Joseph D. Thomas


I stumbled on this book in the Fall River Public Library while doing research on Portuguese Immigration to kick off my podcast "It's Called Culture". First I found the five volume Spinner: People and Culture in Southeastern Massachusetts series. I was thrilled and knew I could find some useful information in there. You can't talk about culture in that geographic location without mentioning the Portuguese. But then I glanced over on the shelf and found a tattered version of the Portuguese Spinner. I hit the Jackpot. A 287-page memoir of Portuguese immigration and assimilation as told by the people themselves. The pages are large and filled with pictures to accompany each story. The one problem was that this book was nearly 25 years old and looked like it had been handled by the entire Portuguese population. The first 50 pages or so were loose and no longer attached to the spine.


I checked it out anyway. Among these pages were the stories of people identical to my immediate family members. Reasons for leaving the islands. Splitting up families to immigrate. Being stranded at the airport. Seeing snow for the first time. Packing families into tenement houses. Low wage factory work. Creating urban gardens. I devoured the book. When it was time to return it to the library I knew that I wanted to search for and purchase my own copy to keep. I found it relatively inexpensively on Amazon.


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From the Back Cover

Portuguese Spinner: An American Story is the first attempt to capture, in popular form, the saga of Portuguese migration and the people's struggle to build a new life in America. This diverse collection includes oral history, folk tales, original literary contributions, scholarly reports and popular journalism. Hundreds of photographs portray the magnificent beauty of the Portuguese islands and maintain, and take us into the many corners of American life where Luso Americans have left their mark.
Portuguese Spinner celebrates the influence of the Portuguese on the culture and the landscape of southeastern New England, and recognizes their impact in the community, in the workplace, and in professional life. See the glorious gardens of Portugal bloom in urban yards in New England. Journey aboard ships in pursuit of whales and fish. Enter the neighborhood, and celebrate at a Portuguese feast. This truly American story reads like a family album -- brave, true and from the heart -- told by scholars, citizen historians and by the people themselves.