Why We Left: Untold Stories and Songs of America's First Immigrants by Joanna Brooks

Why We Left: Untold Stories and Songs of America's First Immigrants by Joanna Brooks

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Joanna Brooks's ancestors were among the earliest waves of emigrants to leave England for North America. They lived hardscrabble lives for generations, eking out subsistence in one place after another as they moved forever westward in search of a new life.

Why Brooks wondered, did her people and countless other poor English subjects abandon their homeland to settle for such unremitting hardship? The question leads her on a journey into a largely obscured dimension of American history.

With her family's background as a point of departure, Brooks brings to light the harsh realities behind seventeenth- and eighteenth-century working-class English emigration-and dismantles the long-cherished idea that these immigrants were drawn to America as a land of opportunity.

"Why We Left draws creatively on early folk ballads of England and America to make a surprising, bold, and altogether brilliant contribution to our understanding of why people crossed the Atlantic to live in a strange new world. Haunting voices sing to us across the centuries a rich and disturbing 'history from below.'" -Marcus Rediker, author of The Amistad Rebellion: An Atlantic Odyssey of Slavery and Freedom

"I would recommend [Why We Left] to anyone interested in looking at the "other side" of colonization." -Journal of Folklore Research