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Promised Land

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The promised land is a book writen by Mary Antin. In this novel the author talks about the main differences that she saw when she emigrated from Russia to the United States.  The main themes of the story are the immigration and also the process that the immigrant take to become citizens of a different country: This is an important and interesting theme because immigration is very important nowadays and we should try to understand the people that leave everything behind them searching for a better life in a foreign country.


In The promised land, Antin, a jew russian emigrant, talks about her difficulties in the New World, and the differences between America and Russia, also known as New World and Old World. Firstly, she understands America as the freedom where she can go to school and live a normal life, while in Russia she couldn´t because of her religion (we should know that in Czarist Russia Jews were only allowed to live in certain places and only to work at certain trades) and her sex (among Orthodox Jews in Eastern Europe, women were not permitted education beyond learning to read the Psalms in Hebrew). And although they were really poor, compared to Russia, their situation was much better so that’s why Antin says she had “a kingdom in the slums”. In America she felt she had freedom to choose her own identity. In America, she received a free education in Boston public schools. She had access to public libraries. She had access to settlement houses where she experienced American culture. She had a freedom of which she could hardly dream in Europe.

She also talks about her father dream, he has always dreamed that his children can go to school and have a better life than his. But we can also find the differences between Mary and her sister Frida, just some years older. While Mary was allowed to study and have a better life, Frida must go to work and help her family to have more money. Mary feels guilty about her sisters future because she is the one with all the possibilities.

This book is important to our subject because it talks about migration and the problems that the immigrants can find in their host country.


Mary Antin, the author of “The Promised Land“, was born to a Jewish family in Polotsk, Russia, in 1881. It being a period of pogroms, Antin’s family decided to emigrate to the United States, when she was thirteen years old, and they settled in Boston. Antin was fifteen years old when she had her first poem published inThe Boston Herald. Later, the letters she sent to her uncle living in Russia were also published in The American Hebrew. They were printed in a book, From Plotzk to Boston, in 1899, when Antin was just 18 years old.

Antin moved to New York, and in 1901 she married Amadeus Grabau, a professor at Columbia University. She wrote several articles for Atlantic Monthly, and, in 1912 she published her autobiography, The Promised Land. It was a critical and popular success, and was used in civics classes as the authoritative representation of the immigrant experience for many years. Her book, They Who Knock at Our Gates: A Complete Gospel of Immigration, was written in 1914.

A supporter of Theodore Roosevelt and the Progressive Party, Antin was one of the leading campaigners against restrictive immigration legislation.

Most Famous Works

  • From Plotzk to Boston (1899)
  • The Promised Land (1912)
  • They Who Knock at Our Gates: A Complete Gospel of Immigration (1914)

Suggested readings

Guttmann, Allen. The Jewish Writer in America: Assimilation and the Crisis of Identity. New York: Oxford University Press, 1971.

Liptzin, Sol. The Jew in American Literature. New York: Bloch, 1966.

Tuerk, Richard. “At Home in the Land of Columbus: Americanization in European-American Immigrant Autobiography.” InMulticultural Autobiography: American Lives, edited by James Robert Payne. Knoxville: University of Tennessee Press, 1992.

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