A “comprehensive…fascinating” (The New York Times Book Review) history of Asian Americans and their role in American life, 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 much of their long history has been forgotten. “In her sweeping, powerful new book, Erika Lee considers the rich, complicated, and sometimes invisible histories of Asians in the United States” (Huffington Post).
The Making of Asian America shows how generations of Asian immigrants and their American-born descendants have made and remade Asian American life, from sailors who came on the first trans-Pacific ships in the 1500 to the Japanese Americans incarcerated 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 fifty years after the passage of the United States’ Immigration and Nationality Act of 1965, these “powerful Asian American stories…are inspiring, and Lee herself does them justice in a book that is long overdue” (Los Angeles Times). But more than that, The Making of Asian America is an “epic and eye-opening” (Minneapolis Star-Tribune) new way of understanding America itself, its complicated histories of race and immigration, and its place in the world today.
To honor the 50th anniversary of the U.S. Immigration and Nationality Act, Lee (Angel Island), University of Minnesota historian and director of the Immigration History Research Center, tackles the sensitive subject of Asian-American assimilation in this ambitious, sweeping, and insightful survey. Charting the immigration story of individual nations rather than employing the "simplistic and monolithic model minority' lens," Lee opens with 19th-century indentured servitude as Chinese "coolies" arrived in the Americas, and moves through the subsequent experiences of immigrants from Japan, Korea, and a range of South and Southeast Asian countries. Part two tracks each group's struggle for acceptance, Part Three covers the impact of WWII, and Part Four addresses the 1.2 million displaced Southeast Asian refugees who settled in the U.S. after 1975. Lee brings her Chinese-American background into the mix, dating her roots to a great-great-great-grandfather who arrived during the California Gold Rush. As the rush wound down, the Chinese provided services such as laundries and restaurants self-employment offering a solution to the harsh reality of workplace discrimination. Despite assimilation and socio-economic success, Lee reminds readers that "Asian Americans are seen as Asians, not Americans, and come to embody whatever threat the land of their ancestry allegedly poses to the United States."