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Asian American Dreams: The Emergence of an American People

4.04  ·  Rating Details ·  484 Ratings  ·  37 Reviews
The fascinating story of the rise of Asian Americans as a politically and socially influential racial group

This groundbreaking book is about the transformation of Asian Americans from a few small, disconnected, and largely invisible ethnic groups into a self-identified racial group that is influencing every aspect of American society. It explores the junctures that shocked
Paperback, 368 pages
Published May 15th 2001 by Farrar, Straus and Giroux (first published 2000)
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The Joy Luck Club by Amy TanThe Namesake by Jhumpa LahiriThe Woman Warrior by Maxine Hong KingstonInterpreter of Maladies by Jhumpa LahiriSnow Flower and the Secret Fan by Lisa See
Asian American Books
50th out of 207 books — 195 voters
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Chinese American history
5th out of 101 books — 9 voters

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Community Reviews

(showing 1-30 of 1,471)
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Sep 12, 2010 Jasmine rated it it was amazing
I'm at a point in my life where I'm questioning my cultural identity - should I be Asian-American or an Asian-European-American or just check the Other box? I'm not sure who or what group I want to be tied to, or if I want to be tied to any particular group anyways.

Funnily enough, I didn't read this book to find out if I wanted to identify as Asian-American only. I read this as part of my Independent Study project at school (on Asians & Asian-Americans in the media) but I read this for a bi
Barb Middleton
I was talking to a colleague who said she loved this book because it captured her conflicted identity growing up in America as an Asian who had no voice in government. She's an activist like Helen Zia. She tells a great story of her high school principal asking her at lunch one day how he could get the Chinese, Koreans, and white students to not eat separately. My colleague suggested to the principal to organize field trips. "Friendships are formed out of the classroom and the principal took me ...more
Nov 11, 2010 N_hannahkang rated it really liked it
Shelves: info-bios
Zia writes a well-researched and highly reflective account of the history and future of Asian Americans. I was drawn to Zia's book in the first few pages where she writes "In 1965, an immigration policy that had given racial preferences to Europeans for nearly two hundred years officially came to an end. Millions of new immigrants to America were no longer the standard vanilla but Hispanic, African, Caribbean, and - most dramatically for me - Asian...Up until then I was someone living in the sha ...more
Sep 04, 2009 Manshui rated it really liked it
Shelves: 10th-grade
Asian American Dreams is a true emergence of the American people. As an Asian American, I can connect to this story of Helen Zia's survival as Asian in America. The author brings many topics about descrimination and stereotype in her life in the Asian American race. I feel really glad that now more Asian Americans are speaking up on who they are even though they are different. Although we are a minority in the nation, many of us has left a important footprint in the foundation of this growing co ...more
Aug 14, 2007 Oyceter rated it really liked it
This was an excellent read. Zia was actually instrumental in some of the events of the book, and may have covered others as a journalist. Her writing is immediate and gripping, and I never had a problem keeping my attention on the book. On the other hand, sometimes Zia can editorialize a little too much for me, particularly when she's noting how wrong or ironic something is.

Full review:
Sep 23, 2015 Ying rated it really liked it
REQUIRED READING + A BOOK TO OWN. so accessible. like a 101 text, but supercharged because of the delicate balance of context and detail, plus Helen Zia's journalist background.
Brian Stein
Apr 26, 2013 Brian Stein rated it really liked it
I read this book on the recommendation of my wife, who used it for an Asian American Studies class she developed for the University of Virginia. I am so glad she did. Though I was a aware of one of the greatest American injustices of the 20th century, the forced internment of the Japanese population of the United States, I was surprised at my ignorance regarding a number of other high-profile injustices Asian-Americans have endured over the past century alone. From the savage, racially-motivated ...more
May 06, 2008 Tinea rated it really liked it
Recommended to Tinea by: "Race, Gender, & American Social Movements" class
Shelves: race-and-racism
Solid general history of Asian Americans in the US over the past half century or so. As accessible as an intro, but with considerable depth into a wide variety of issues and events: hate crimes and legal civil rights battles, the LA Riots, immigrant struggles, race and racism (beyond the white/black dichotomy), Japanese internment, and lots of critical examination of the media. Zia presents a strong case for greater focus on Asian American history and rights in academia, politics, and activism. ...more
Jan 12, 2009 Melissa rated it really liked it
Being yellow, I've never felt like I've had much of a place in America. I've never felt like i had much history or connection. A dear friend lent me her copy of this book, and though I had a hard time following the flow (it's a bit dry) this book reassured me that there is a history through Colonial times of Asians immigrating to the U.S., and being forced to emigrate as racism grew or declined over time. I wanted to finish it, but just couldn't get there. I'm not sure whether it's that I couldn ...more
Helen Sun
May 08, 2014 Helen Sun rated it really liked it
This is a significant book for Asian Americans; it highlights some of the lessons learned from our past experiences with racism, stereotypes, and identity-formation. Helen also details complex race, class and cultural dynamics that sometimes help to perpetuate stereotypes. For ex, when the Japanese are forced into internment camps or Korean store owners are victims of vandalism, other Asian groups remain silent. This reinforces the idea that Asians do not stand up and fight back. I like how Hele ...more
Ji In
Politics and civil rights *are* personal, and that's why this book works. I appreciated the natural flow between the more journalistic accounts of these important milestones in Asian and Pacific American history, shuffled in with Zia's personal anecdotes, often told from the frontlines. This book is empowering and well-composed, and a must-read for all Asian Americans -- correction: all Americans -- who are committed to advancing the civil rights movement into the 21st century.
Cindy Elder
Jan 16, 2013 Cindy Elder rated it it was amazing
Well-researched book about Asian and Asian-American experiences in the U.S. from early days of the country until recently. Zia shows the rise of activism and political work in the community in relation to events that have occurred over the years. The book is written in a way that makes it easy and quick to read, rather than say some books in college classes. Those who don't know much about Asian history and experience in the U.S. will find this book to be very eye-opening.
Jan 03, 2009 Whit rated it really liked it
A book centering on the Asian-American experience and the contemporary Asian-American civil rights movements that came with the arrival of Asians in the United States. It's written in both memoir form using personal anecdotes and in an investigative journalism format. Powerful and intriguing--a lot of Zia's essays contain shocking details of 20th-century acts of racism against Asians that I hadn't been aware of, even as an Asian-American myself.
It's a shame that we don't learn hardly enough about the treatment of Asian-Americans in this country and the various atrocities committed against them in the past and present. This book really opened my eyes about the reality of Asian-Americans living in this country and their history which (contrary to myth) dates all the back to the 1500s. I think everyone, especially Americans, should read this book.
Nov 19, 2010 Rebekah rated it it was amazing
Recommends it for: EVERYONE!
Shelves: recommend
This was one of the most inspiring books I've read since... No Logo. It's an amazing account of the US experience of Asian Americans, inter-woven with a personal story of Helen Zia, who was raised as a second-generation Chinese American speaking only English. It is poignant & powerful, and I believe it should be taught in schools.

Tianjun Shen
Oct 21, 2013 Tianjun Shen rated it liked it
Overall, the book educated me on many a matter of Asian American histories and the dynamics the Asian race played in American history. The first few chapters are engaging, but as I read on, the book seems more like a (a little boring) history textbook. Wish there were more "stories" than historical narratives.
Dec 23, 2007 Susannah rated it it was amazing
as a korean adoptee, this book really helped me discover who i am as an asian american. i had the chance to meet the author and she signed my copy! she's a role model and an inspiration. although a couple of my asian friends called this book "asian americans for dummies." it!
Sep 18, 2010 Jamie rated it it was amazing
This book enlightened me to all the things i have been searching for, with the evidence of large Asian contributions to America. Zia refutes her case by diplomatically sharing the stories of important Asian Americans, and intelligently shows the issues of the Asian stereotype in america.
Soo Mi Kil
May 09, 2013 Soo Mi Kil rated it it was amazing
I read this long ago. I remember this was an interesting read and that a mayor of San Francisco wanted to fly a hot air balloon full of explosives over Chinatown to get rid of Asians. I highly recommend this to all but especially my peeps who want to know what our peeps went through.
Apr 25, 2011 Marissa rated it really liked it
Shelves: non-fiction
Great crash course on various issues that have affected Asian Americans since the 1700's. This covers the major events that have encouraged the development of the Asian American identity.
Jan 02, 2010 Nancy rated it liked it
Pretty comprehensive look at AA experience and history. Picked it up because felt like I needed to get in touch with my Asianess.
Wanda Luong
Nov 27, 2007 Wanda Luong rated it really liked it
Recommends it for: anyone
I really liked learning about the Asian experience in America...especially since we don't get to learn a lot of this in grade school.
May 08, 2007 Ben rated it really liked it
Shelves: non-fiction
Good book, but the author cannot separate her stories from her political view, and that ends up coloring everything too much.
Feb 14, 2014 Stephanie rated it liked it
Shelves: school, skimmed
I did not read the entire book, only certain chapters because it was for my Asian American Studies class.

3/5 stars
Nov 30, 2008 Abby rated it it was amazing
Strongly recommended. The experience of Asian Americans in the United States both historical and current.
May 25, 2011 Kim rated it liked it
This is a requirement for my Asian American History class, however so far, so good. Very informative.
Oct 18, 2012 Daniel rated it it was amazing
A lot of very interesting parts of American history I was unaware. An important read for anyone.
Emily Haug
Mar 13, 2015 Emily Haug rated it it was amazing
Beautifully written! Wish I had learned all of this in History class in high school!
Feb 24, 2008 Owen rated it liked it
another decent intro to asian america kind of book - a dime a dozen, nothing new
Mar 28, 2011 Sarah marked it as to-read
The first PARAGRAPH is awesome. can't wait to hear her speak tomorrow.
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