STRANGERS FROM A DIFFERENT SHORE: A History of Asian Americans by Ronald Takaki


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From Takaki (Ethnic Studies/Univ. of California at Berkeley; Iron Cages, 1979), a work of popular history that hopes to turn America away from its white ethnocentric view of Asian-Americans as ""foreigners."" Takaki bites off a large chunk here, taking as his purview Americans with roots in China, Japan, Korea, the Philippines, India, Vietnam, Laos, and Cambodia. He finds his subjects working not only in various Chinatowns and Little Tokyos in hot kitchens and launderettes, but in California's Silicon Valley (where ""rows and rows of Vietnamese and Laotian women serve as the eyes and hands of production assembly lines for computer chips""), or along Massachusetts' high-tech Route 128 (where Asian-American engineers undertake complex research alongside their WASP counterparts), or at Harvard (where Asian-Americans represent 11% of the student body: 21% at MIT, 25% at Berkeley). Along the way, Takaki coins a new word, ""yappies"" (young Asian professionals who ""drive BMW's, wear designer clothes, and congregate at Continental restaurants"")--to designate a group that has entered the mainstream of American life while remaining outsiders in the eyes of many ""Americans."" The author documents how Asian immigrants were perceived differently than were their European counterparts. Drawing on John Higham's Strangers in the Land (1955), Takaki shows how, despite tribulations, most Italian, Jewish, Irish, or Eastern European immigrants had certain advantages--white skin, names that could easily be Anglicized--that Asians could not emulate. Moreover, typical European immigrants came here to build a better life, while Asians were often imported to meet the demands for cheap labor in plantation work, railroad building, mining, factories, and farms. A touching paean to Asian-Americans who've overcome such obstacles as a Naturalization Law that kept nonwhites from citizenship as late as 1952. An ethnic success story, well told.

Pub Date: Aug. 23rd, 1989
ISBN: 0316831301
Publisher: Little, Brown