Strangers from a Different Shore: A History of Asian Americans by Ronald TakakiIssues that I had with this book:
1. This book is 491 pages long. Of these, only 24 were spent discussing the experiences of Indian Americans. Was it because Takaki exhaustively covers all Asian immigration to America? No. Its because the book focuses heavily on Japanese, Chinese and Korean immigrants, with lesser amounts of time being spent on Filipino immigrants and as said, 24 pages on Indian Americans. I suppose there are also some short write ups on the experiences of refugees from Vietnam (12 pages), Laos (8 pages) and Cambodia (4 pages) towards the end of the book but again, the brevity makes me question Takakis priorities in writing this book. If he wanted to write a book solely on East Asian immigration to America, he should have done so.
2. South Asian Americans were consistently referred to as Asian-Indians in this book and only on page 447 (the second of the two sections that discuss South Asian immigrants in any form, the first being from 294-314) was it inadvertently revealed that Takaki chose this appellation because it was the official census category in 1981, presumably to distinguish South Asian Americans from indigenous peoples. Im not sure of the politics involved in referring to indigenous peoples in America as Indians but I think that just because a census 8 years prior to publication of your book chose to refer to a group of people with an inappropriate label as reaction to a outdated and racist label, doesnt mean its the one that you, as a professor of ethnography should also use.
3. The chapter dealing with Asian-Indians: The Tide of Turbans: Asian Indians in America. The title dealing with Filipino Americans: Dollar a Day, Dime a Dance: the Forgotten Filipinos. In contrast, the chapters dealing with East Asians were: Ethnic Solidarity: The Settling of Japanese America; Ethnic Islands: The Emergence of Urban Chinese America; and Struggling Against Colonialism: Koreans in America. I have been known to overreact, but Im pretty sure theres a tone of respectfulness in the titles dealing with East Asians thats distinctly lacking in the chapters re: Indians and Filipinos.
4. Its the content too. Why is the Ghadar movement covered in less than one page while the chapter on Korean Americans emphasizes their anti-colonial actions? I suppose it could be because the Korean American anti-colonial movement concerns the interactions of Japanese Americans and Korean Americans but still! Also rme to the skies at the bit where Takaki writes about how Filipino men had an advantage over East Asian immigrants with women because they had been schooled by the Spanish in romance, just jfc. Maybe Filipino men were better able to breach the cultural divide with white women because of their exposure to Spanish culture but why would you word it like that. What is this, Oh thank you kind colonial masters for teaching us the arts of love tone. Just...
5. Quoting immigrants interviews/memoirs/creative works is fantastic. Im glad that Takaki makes such good use of these valuable sources but at the same time, when a person gives you this narrative wherein he presents on the one hand, this evil white woman who ruins a strike using her feminine wiles and proclaims that she did it because, I hate Filipinos as deeply as I hate unions! You are all savages!, and on the other, this saintly prostitute (the song of my dark hour) who rescues the narrator after hes been attacked by racist thugs, feeds him, shelters him, drives him where he wants him to go, gives him all her money (Now you can go to university. Nearly three hundred dollars. All for you) and dies shortly after, youve got to wonder, to what extent is this more part of the narrators personal mythology than his history? Sentimental stories with good-hearted prostitutes that die for our sins, where are we, in a Dostoevsky novel? Switch the ending - let the prostitute live, make the narrator bring her a sewing machine and marry her, and there we are: Chernyshevsky revisited! But Takaki looks at this and goes, see, white woman 1, represented Americas mean and exclusionist spirit while white woman 2 personified Americas sympathy and softness. Just nope.
6. He does that thing students do where when theyre unsure of how their paper ties together and so repeat one key phrase 500 times in order to create a sense of connection between the points made. In Takakis case, its the phrase strangers from another shore though he switches it up and sometimes just reminds us that the immigrants are treated like strangers or that theyre perceived as being forever from another shore. And its ridiculous because the idea that Takaki is trying to convey - that the racist reception of white Americans to Asian immigrants was in large part responsible for their alienation from American society, the fact of which created more prejudices among white Americans about Asian Americans failure to integrate - couldnt be clearer or more obvious. And yet five pages dont go by without Takaki invoking the fact of Asian Americans being strangers from another shore. Stoooooooop.
7. Theres this moment where Takaki writes that among the many abuses this Japanese immigrant suffered, he was even called a chink. Why is there this even? Is it really surprising that someone who would use a racial epithet wouldnt know or care about the differences between East Asians? Theres no even when Takaki talks about how Asian Indians and Filipinos were called the n-word. Idk, its just one of those details that catch your attention and seem to confirm the suspicions you had about the writer, even though theyre not really demonstrative of anything.
But despite these things, its a good history of East Asians in America.
Strangers from a Different Shore
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The Asian migration experience is a tale often told in brevity or romanticized as vignettes by Hollywood stereotyping Asians. This book touched several different .
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Thank you! 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. Drawing on John Higham's Strangers in the Land , 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
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The book concentrates on Chinese, Filipino, Japanese and Indian immigrants, although other Asian immigrants are also discussed. Most came to America and Hawaii with hopes and dreams of a better life. Many did not find it. Asian immigration began because of the need for labor. In Hawaii there was an need for plantation workers, and the growers began to import Chinese workers. Many of the Chinese signed labor contracts in China that provided for passage and the terms of their employment.