A kaleidoscopic view of new immigrants and refugees living in Queens, New York the most ethnically diverse locality in the United States.
New York's undersung borough of Queens, home to the new Ellis Island (the city's airports), may be the most diverse county in the country today, and documentarians Lehrer and Sloan have innovatively brought it to life. First-person narratives that sometimes intertwine several voices (some were broadcast on the public radio program The Next Big Thing) are matched by a bold and colorful layout: large portraits, long-view landscapes, multiple typefaces (sometimes within the same paragraph) and inset graphics or asides. The stories are grouped in five lower-case sections: "contemporary pilgrims," "asylum seekers," "family ties," "neighborhood tales" and "unlikely coexistences" (Ping-Pong players, a high school, a punk-gypsy cabaret band). The language can be poetic; a Congolese asylum-seeker declares, "Wackenhut is a for-profit business they are making from the sorrow of detainees." Two Egyptian restaurateurs, brothers, lament gentrification: "You really killed yourself with the atmosphere you created." A Russian migr expresses disbelief that a call to 911 would actually bring the cops. Some interviewees express melancholy about their move, but they generally agree-an old American story-that opportunities are better for their kids. An accompanying CD (sold separately if you buy the paperback) includes interview excerpts as well as music by the authors and some of their subjects. While some of the texture of Queens is sacrificed-you wouldn't know the library system is the busiest in the country-this book remains an arresting, vividly printed mosaic. (Sept.) Copyright 2003 Reed Business Information.