Bessie’s Pillow


Twenty million immigrants came to America between 1880 and 1924.

Most would come from Eastern and Southern Europe, others from Germany and Ireland, still others from Asia and Latin America. They passed their stories of struggle and triumph down to us, their children and grandchildren. One of those immigrants, Bessie Markman left Lithuania in 1906—alone—at the age of 18.  One of thousands of Jewish immigrants who will leave Europe to escape persecution, she travels to America completely alone. Not your usual story about an immigrant to America in the early 20th century, it’s a story of courage, of resilience, and love that never ends.


Bessie’s Pillow Book – Ideal for English, Social Studies, ESOL
Available in English and Spanish/English Dual Language with Companion Workbooks

For Middle or High School

English Edition


Bessie’s Pillow, A Young Immigrant’s Journey is the true story of the author’s grandmother who immigrated to New York as an 18-year-old in 1906. Written in first person, this easy-to-read young adult book can be used in the classroom in a variety of ways—engaging students in reading.

Spanish/English Dual Edition

Dual-Language Edition-Spanish/English. This edition may be used with both English- and Spanish speaking students, as each translation is presented side-by-side. Each page has space for notes at the bottom.

Companion Workbooks

English Version

Grades 6-12+ English only

The companion workbook to Bessie’s Pillow is perfect for classroom environments.

Students can explore their own immigration stories in depth, whether they are recent immigrants themselves, are first generation members of immigrant families, or have been in the U.S. for generations.


Dual Version

Grades 6-12+ Spanish/English

Bessies Workbook Engl_SP Inside Image

My Immigration Story, Mi Historia de Imigración, the companion workbook described above is also available in dual language format, with activities in English and Spanish on facing pages. 32 pp. plus cover

The Author talks about Bessie at the 92nd St. Y.

What Bessie’s Readers Say

History at it’s best

“You don’t have to be Jewish or from New York to love this or take away some of its wisdom. This is history as it’s meant to be told—in a story.”
 Jan Lowe, Publisher, United Writers Press

Exceptional woman

“She was the embodiment of pioneer women. Instead of going across the country, she went across the ocean. She looked forward and faced everything with such courage. She did it. She did for others. Her valor. She was a role model for what people should do for others. She had common sense and heart and acted upon it. Forthright, brave, an exceptional woman.” 
Wendy Greenberg, Retired Reading Specialist, Mahopac, NY

Love the Flashbacks

“I love the flashbacks. Each one teaches you something to help with your own life. Just as I put the book down, something happened with one of my grandchildren. I read her one of the flashbacks to help her regain her courage. Thank you, thank you for Bessie’s Pillow.” 
Ann Rogak, Pine Island Ridge, Florida

An Outstanding Resource

After I finished reading Bessie’s Pillow, my only regret was that it ended. What sheer enjoyment on every page…even as I occasionally wiped away the tears. You made the immigrant experience come alive….I wish every history student would read this for class…a century later, Bessie’s story will still inspire everyday people to embrace life.”
Ellen Purcigliotti, Student Teacher Supervisor, Secondary Social Studies Education, SUNY New Paltz