Emma Lazarus Project

The Emma Lazarus Project explores the story of Emma Lazarus, a fifth-generation American Jew caught in an important turning point in American and Jewish History. The initiative—including an exhibit, curriculum and poetry contest—uses primary sources straight from the archive to encourage students to piece together Emma’s fascinating story, and to join the ongoing conversation about American identity.

American Dream, Interrupted

by Serrina Zou

High School



A Golden Shovel Poem
After “The New Colossus” by Emma Lazurus
Twenty-five years ago we forced our bodies to send
our spirits across an ocean brimming with these
bones, all calcium & fracture, breaking like the
country that welcomed the diaspora to cast us into homeless
vagabonds thirsting for the pulse of tempest-tost
need for belief in pockets of stars we pledged our allegiance to.
Every year I lose more face when this country promises me
a poster myth for prosperity, all picture-perfect the way I
imagine my own funeral procession: an open grave I must lift
from beneath a flag. In between blood-stained reds & tear-born blues is my
corpse, a body politic cleaved by white-picket fences & a dimming lamp
that guides me anywhere but home. Always memory hides beside
me, its arms lurching us into morning. It’s a story told too often: all the
untold tragedies sinking their roots into a fertile delta of golden
foreigner land, hands braided in surrender behind America’s closed door.

Serrina Zou is a writer from San Jose, California, a California Arts Scholar in Creative Writing, a 2020 Foyle Commended Young Poet, and a two-time Scholastic National Medalist in Poetry. Her work appears or is forthcoming in the National Poetry Quarterly, Tinderbox Poetry Journal, In Parentheses, The Rising Phoenix Review, and elsewhere.