What does it mean to be a “real
American?” Eleven-year-old Nathan McClelland thinks he knows until all
his neighbors sell their farms to the coal company and move away. Nathan
doesn’t like the Italian immigrants who’ve moved in to work in the mines—that
is, until he meets Arturo. Nathan works on making Arturo into his idea
of a real American and is shocked when he discovers that Arturo doesn’t
want to be Nathan’s kind of American. Read this book to find out how both
boys become “real Americans.”
Are you a “real American”? We’re all “real” Americans, aren’t we?
In this story we meet a boy named Nathan, who finds out more about what
being a “real” American means.
Well, when this story starts, we meet Nathan McClelland. The
year is 1892. Nathan and his family have been living in the
small town of Manorville, Pennsylvania for many years. So have his
friends and all their families. But, when coal is discovered
in the surrounding area, a large company comes in and starts buying all
the farmland. Most of the families sell, but not the McClellands.
They decide to stay. One by one, Nathan sadly watches all his friends
move away. After the last friends leave, Nathan goes by their farm
and watches as the coal company tears down the house and replaces it with
many, shoddily constructed shacks for the Italian immigrants who are moving
in to take the dangerous mining jobs. Nathan’s father warns him strictly
about not associating with the Italian immigrants. He says that it
will just “lead to trouble.” Being an eleven year old
boy, Nathan just has to find out for himself why his dad forbids him from
meeting the Italian immigrants. As he watches the miners going to
work one day, he notices a boy, about his age. He gets to know
this boy. Nathan finds out that his name is Arturo, Arturo Tosci.
This takes place at a time when there were no child labor laws in the U.S.,
or very lax labor laws, and 11 year old boys are considered to be of age
to work in the mines. Not only that, but after Nathan becomes friends
with Arturo, he finds out that the miners are struggling to support their
families, the same as his own father, and they are expected to pay
for their own work supplies, like picks, oil for their lamps and even the
lumber to support the mineshaft!! Serious accidents occur on
a regular basis and the miners eventually want to strike for better working
conditions. Nathan decides that he just can’t stand by without doing
something to help the “bunch of stinking foreigners” as his childhood friends
refer to the Italians.
Find out how Nathan helps his friend and discovers what being a real American
is all about. (Francoise H. Fussell, firstname.lastname@example.org,
Universtiy of South Carolina, College of Library & Information Studies)
Ask students: Do you like change?
Eleven year old Nathan McClelland is very unhappy because he does not like
change. This story is set in a small farming community in Pennsylvania
in the early 1900’s. A coal mining industry opens a new mine near Nathan’s
home. The coal mine brings in Italian foreigners and forces many hometown
neighbors to sell their farms to the coal-mining company. Even Nathan’s
best friend is forced to move. With all of his friends gone and all of
this change, Nathan becomes very sad. Nathan hears comments like “stinking
foreigners” and “we have to keep to our own kind” from the local town people.
Nathan becomes increasingly lonely and sad. Then Arturo Tozzi, an Italian
boy who works at the mine, tries to befriend Nathan. Nathan wants and needs
a friend and Arturo wants to be A Real American by Richard Easton. These
two boys start to develop a friendship when tragedy strikes at he coal
mine. Can Nathan help Arturo? Can Nathan save the Tozzi family and the
other Italian immigrants from losing their jobs and their homes?
Read A Real American to find out how two boys defy social barriers to build
a courageous friendship. (Becky Proctor, email@example.com,
library media specialist, Dorcester Academy, St. George, SC 29477)