The making of Asian America : a history

by Erika Lee

Paper Book, 2015




New York : Simon & Schuster, 2015.


"The definitive history of Asian Americans by one of the nation's preeminent scholars on the subject. In the past fifty years, Asian Americans have helped change the face of America and are now the fastest growing group in the United States. But as award-winning historian Erika Lee reminds us, Asian Americans also have deep roots in the country. The Making of Asian America tells the little-known history of Asian Americans and their role in American life, from the arrival of the first Asians in the Americas to the present-day. An epic history of global journeys and new beginnings, this book shows how generations of Asian immigrants and their American-born descendants have made and remade Asian American life in the United States: sailors who came on the first trans-Pacific ships in the 1500s; indentured "coolies" who worked alongside African slaves in the Caribbean; and Chinese, Japanese, Filipino, Korean, and South Asian immigrants who were recruited to work in the United States only to face massive racial discrimination, Asian exclusion laws, and for Japanese Americans, incarceration during World War II. Over the past fifty years, a new Asian America has emerged out of community activism and the arrival of new immigrants and refugees. No longer a "despised minority," Asian Americans are now held up as America's "model minorities" in ways that reveal the complicated role that race still plays in the United States. Published to commemorate the fiftieth anniversary of the passage of the United States' Immigration and Nationality Act of 1965 that has remade our "nation of immigrants," this is a new and definitive history of Asian Americans. But more than that, it is a new way of understanding America itself, its complicated histories of race and immigration, and its place in the world today"--… (more)

User reviews

LibraryThing member LaPhenix
A thorough history of Asians in the Americas that highlights the obstacles Asian-Americans have overcome and continuing obstacles they face.
LibraryThing member Daumari
Full of citations, The Making of Asian America is a comprehensive look at the Asian American experience not just in the United States but in the hemisphere, including perspectives from Canada, Mexico, and South American countries. Previous books I've read tend to focus on the Chinese and Japanese
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experiences, but this book also examines Korean, Filipin@, Vietnamese, South and Southeast Asian perspectives. It also takes a wider view of history than books I've previously read, including colonial times and up to the modern day with the Oak Creek gurdwara massacre. Detail isn't lost with such a wide range, though, as the chapters on WWII cover not only the internment of Japanese American citizens but the extradition of Japanese Peruvians to the United States (and how they were then in immigration limbo as 'illegal immigrants' when they were brought against their will).

The big thing I took away from this was that history repeats itself, and the way migrants and Syrian refugees are viewed now is reminiscent of sentiments against Hmong and Vietnamese immigrants 30 years ago, sentiments against the Japanese 70 years ago, the Know-Nothing movement in the 1880s, etc. Are we doomed to repeat history yet again, or can we learn from previous mistakes? Time will tell.
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LibraryThing member magicians_nephew
During Asian American and Pacific Islander month and following up on reading Interior Chinatown a new book on the whole history of Asians in America has fallen into my hands.

The Making of Asian America is a big scholarly book commendable for its detail and its depth of research. Think the first
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Asians showed up in the Americas at the time of the California Gold Rush? Chinese and Filipino sailors and businessmen were active in Peru and other parts of Spanish South America at least a century before that.

When the British in the Caribbean "freed" their Black workers they turned around and imported Chinese "indentured servants" in their place.
Though the "indentured" had some rights they were cruelly treated and lies to and abused.

There are details here of the internment camps during World War II that will tear at your heart. The book makes it clear that the treatment of American born Japanese was based much more on politics than on any danger they might have posed to national security.

It's a scholarly book with some dry stretches, interspersed with stories that excite and fascinate. One of the very first ships sent out from the newborn United States of America was the "Empress of China" sent around the horn to buy tea for American tables to bypass the (former) British monopoly.
(Gee where did you think the tea came from anyway?)

I got a lot out of it. History is always about then - and its always about now.
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LibraryThing member Salsabrarian
Impressively comprehensive and yet readable. You don't need to be a historian or academic to appreciate and be much better informed about the history of Asian America. There is a lot here that has never been taught in any social studies class or college history course. It is anti-racist must
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