Bartoletti, S. (2000). A coal miner’s bride: The diary of Anetka Kaminska. New York, NY: Scholastic.
This is another book from the Dear America series. I thought it would be interesting to choose a book from the series that illustrates the immigrant history that the series presents. All of the books in the series center around American history but there are several books like this one that begin in foreign countries and describe the process of coming to America and becoming Americanized. These are particularly interesting as they show how immigrants were treated by other Americans and how they both adapted to their new lives and held onto their own traditions and history. This story is about Anetka who is a polish immigrant. At the start of the book she is living in Poland with her grandmother and brother while her father is working in America. She hopes he will come home and pay off their debt but instead discovers he has arranged for her to be married to one of the men who works in the coal mines with her father. She travels to America with her brother and a young solider from her village and discovers her father didn’t tell her the whole story. The miner has three young daughters, she marries him and becomes their mother but he is not a good husband. The story gets even sadder when he dies in a mining accident leaving her the mother of three young girls and in debt to the mining company. She takes in boarders so she can back off her debt but the men around her become more serious about joining a union to protect themselves and their families. Some of the men she knows then take part in the strike that becomes the Lattimer Massacre where police shot at unarmed protesters. The story ends on a happier note the young soldier who traveled from Poland with Anetka and her brother, who went missing after the massacre coming home and marrying Anetka. One of the things that is most surprising about this story is how young Anetka is only 13 years old. Bartoletti stated “This wasn’t unusual in the coal region: by the time a girl was thirteen, she knew all she needed to know to take care of a house, a husband, and a family” in an interview(Bartoletti). This is the same age or not much older than those who read the book, scholastic lists it as being for ages 11-13.
This is a great series for tweens who like historical fiction and the immigrant stories can be particularly interesting to tweens learning about their own family history. Creating a list of books on immigration including both non-fiction and historical fiction and listed from the country of origin would be a great resource for tween looking into their family history either for fun or for part of a school assignment.
An Interview with Susan Campbell Bartoletti about A Coal Miner’s Bride. (n.d.). Retrieved May 6, 2015, from http://www.scholastic.com/browse/collateral.jsp?id=43941