Just watched the first episode of Faces of America American Lives, the annual February PBS documentary by Henry Louis Gates Jr. He looks at the immigrant experience, and the family history that brought certain people to the United States – the parents and grandparents of Americans of note– Kristi Yamaguchi, Yo Yo Ma, Mike Nichols, Louise Edrich, Mehmet Oz, Elizabeth Alexander, Malcolm Gladwell, Eva Longoria and Mario Batali (I guess we hear more next time from Stephen Colbert, Meryl Streep, and Queen Noor). The heart of this episode dwelled in the events of World War II, and the way that great event shaped the lives of ancestors of Yamaguchi, Ma, Nichols and Edrich.
One trademark about these Gates productions is the revelation about an ancestor. You watch Gates direct the person to turn the page of the book and take in the surprise fact about the Ancestor To The Celebrity. What did figure skater Kristi Yamaguchi’s grandfather do when he served in WW2? Surprise! What became of the other family members of Mike Nichols who stayed in the old country? Surprise!
Some surprises are affirming and uplifting, others are revelation of unknown tragedy, examples of prejudice and injustice. Still others exemplify the torn loyalties of new Americans who support their adopted country that is now at war with The Old Country.
“Faces of America” illuminates the ...Read More