In a time filled with speculations, tweets, Facebook posts, sound bites and 24 hour news cycles, it is easy to become lazy about identifying sources. We hear so much about “an insider” or “someone at the company” that we can forget that actual source material remains important. At the moment I am reading a history of the immigration policy of the United States from 1924-1965. One Mighty and Irresistible Tide by Jia Lynn Yang, copyright 2020, is, I am happy to report well edited.
But more important in the present climate of half baked ideas and carelessly thrown out opinions, Yang has not only done her research but also included endnotes and a thorough bibliography. This allows the reader to check the author’s sources of information and, if desired, read them for herself. Footnotes may annoy readers since they “affect the layout of the page.” Endnotes may annoy readers since “the readers have to move back and forth between the main text and the endnotes.” And in both cases the reader can forgo reading them. A bibliography can seem like a lengthy boast of the author to intimidate the reader about the writer’s lengthy reading.
But after seeing too many poorly edited, poorly sourced books lately, I am grateful for the opportunity a writer such as Yang presents. I don’t have to read any further about immigration, nor do I have to question Yang’s conclusions. But she has provided me with the sources she has used. She welcomes me with her endnotes and bibliography to explore the subject further to my heart’s content. I might draw different conclusions from the same sources, but I will know she has thought deeply about them before reaching her own.