In 1886, eleven-year-old Mihaela embarks on a journey from Croatia to the Keweenaw Peninsula, also known as Michigan’s Copper Country. Mihaela’s papa had made the trip two years beforehand in order to work in the copper mines so that he could send money back home, but a painful eye disease has left him vulnerable in a new land and in need of the skills of his wife, an expert healer. And so Mihaela, her mother, and two younger brothers leave their family farm in Croatia for what they assume will be a brief visit to America, only to find themselves faced with a great many challenges and a stay that will not be temporary after all.
To the Copper Country: Mihaela’s Journey is based on the family history of author Barbara Carney-Coston. Her ancestors made the voyage from Croatia to Michigan in the late nineteenth century, a time when many different groups were immigrating to the United States in search of a new life and better opportunities for their families. A common thread runs throughout the accounts of most immigrants, in terms of sacrifice, assimilation, and cultural contribution to a growing America. But Mihaela’s story is unique in that her exploration of this new land is critical to her father’s survival.
Through extensive primary source materials, family interviews, and correspondence, Carney-Coston introduces readers to an exceptional narrative of the immigrant experience. Complete with a pronunciation guide, family recipes, and a bibliography, To the Copper Country aims to highlight a lesser-known ethnic group that made up part of the great migration of the late 1800s while also identifying parallels between today’s immigrant experiences and those of the past. This book is suitable for young readers and would be an excellent tool for teaching empathy and Michigan history in the classroom.