In celebration of the Cleveland area's rich ethnic heritage, Voices of Diversity focuses on firsthand accounts of the ethnic experience in northeast Ohio. Through personal narratives, translations or reprints of previously published accounts, and hard-to-find histories of regional immigrant communities, the stories and experiences of the people who make up this diverse community are told, adding to our understanding of the history of the region.
These books are available through The Kent State University Press. Click on a book cover below to view information about the book.
Phillip M. Richards
The memoir of a bookish black youth in mid-twentieth century Cleveland
When Phillip M. Richards graduated from Yale in 1972, he had fulfilled his parents’ dreams. Like many other black Clevelanders of their generation, they had come up from the South in the late forties and moved from neighborhood to neighborhood in search of better schools. As they followed bourgeois African Americans’ circular migration from Mt. Pleasant to Lee Harvard to South Taylor Road and finally to Forest Hills, Richards’s parents provided him with all of what they called “the good situations”: major work, classes at the Institute of Music, Boy Scouts, and education at University School—which midcentury Cleveland could offer its most ambitious new black residents.
In An Integrated Boyhood, Richards candidly describes how this exemplary middle-class Cleveland sojourn left him hopelessly confused and dislocated at the very moment of his parents’ triumph. His narrative of success provides the background to a more private turmoil: Richards’s struggle to read the shifting meanings of his privileged experience amid the city’s shifting racial lines, the fringe on the Left, the tumult of rising black consciousness, and the fears of nervous white suburban neighbors. This coming-of-age story sings the undersong of an older generation’s hard-won success. Like all black Clevelanders, Richards was forced to struggle for his understanding of the city’s—and his own—endless racial confusion in the midst of frightening historical change. It is this reality that recurs throughout Richards’s memoir: the early encounters of a scared, bookish African American boy from Mt. Pleasant with what can only be described as the real world.
Noreen Sippola Fairburn
In 1874 the first Finnish immigrants came to Northeast Ohio’s Lake Erie port towns to work on the docks loading coal or unloading iron ore from ships sailing the Great Lakes or to work on the railroads. As with most immigrant groups, the Finns clustered in the same area, hoping to retain their language, customs, and culture, even in the New World.
The Finnish American Heritage Association of Ashtabula County was organized in 1995, and one of its first projects was the interviewing and taping of elderly Finnish Americans to obtain historical accounts of early immigrants. These first-person accounts were written as the narrator told them. Many of the first- and second-generation Finns were in their eighties or nineties at the time of their interviews, yet their recollections of times gone by were told with frankness and clarity. Photographs representative of these early years are also included in this volume.
Genealogists and those interested in immigration studies will find these first-person accounts valuable research tools and fascinating testimonies to the migrant experience.
Frank S. Mendez
A firsthand account of the immigrant experience in America
Frank Mendez, a child of Mexican immigrants begins his memoir with the story of his father’s harrowing migration from Mexico to Texas in 1920 as he escaped from Zapata’s guerrrillos and continues with his story of growing up in northeast Ohio. He recounts the Mendez family’s experience with the Depression, living in the Lorain, Ohio barrio, labor issues, racism, and World War II. Mendez dropped out of high school in 1943 and enlisted in the Marine Corps where he served twenty-two months in the Pacific theatre. When he returned to Lorain, he received his high school diploma, bachelor’s and master’s degrees, and a professional engineering license.
With an easy, engaging style, Mendez deals directly with the matter of personal identity, addressing the issues that confronted him as he tried to sort out his sometimes conflicting Mexican and American heritage. You Can’t Be Mexican comments on the social and political issues of the twentieth century and will appeal to those interested in immigrant studies and ethnicity studies and modern social history.
“ Every immigrant group which has ever come to this country has its own story to tell. Many of the stories have common threads, however, and Mendez’s detailed recollection of the personalities, the emotions, the disappointments and joys relate to the understanding that this is a country of immigrants, whose experience is woven into a shared culture. I know others will enjoy this book as much as I did.”—Ambler H. Moss Jr., Professor of International Studies, University of Miami (former U.S. Ambassador to Panama, 1978- 1982)