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Asian American Dreams: The Emergence of an American People

4.15  ·  Rating details ·  779 ratings  ·  72 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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Average rating 4.15  · 
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Aug 31, 2010 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 bit of
Nov 11, 2010 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
Feb 24, 2009 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
Chris Dunn
May 03, 2020 rated it it was amazing
When I first decided to read this book, I worried from the subtitle — "The Emergence of an American People" — that it would offer a largely idealistic, optimistic view of Asian Americans' roles in the U.S. I was wrong, and I'm glad. Coupled with Erika Lee's "The Making of Asian America," Helen Zia's "Asian American Dreams" is essential reading to learn and better understand the multilayered, many-faceted history of Asians and Asian Americans in the U.S.

Published in 2015, "The Making of Asian Ame
Jul 18, 2007 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:
Aug 02, 2013 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. ...more
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 25, 2016 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Another book from my college days, this is a comprehensive social history about various Asian groups in the U.S. and how they have fought and fared as an emerging political, social, cultural, and economic entity after the 1950's. Helen Zia weaves in her own experience of how she emerged as being a strong voice for Asian Americans, so this is part memoir as well. Thankful that we have people like Helen to document and share this important social history with a broad audience. Happy that I have a ...more
Jun 10, 2019 added it
“The path ahead, blazed by so many bold and daring Asian Americans whose words and deeds have carved a place in America for us, is clear. To be seen, we must make ourselves visible, showing blemish as well as beauty.”
Sep 15, 2019 rated it it was amazing
had a hard time making it through this book -- but because it was so real and hard to read about all that asian americans have faced. found myself near tears a little too many times on the bus or metro because how can i read about people being killed and being hated solely because they look a certain way, and that certain way is the same way that i look? i learned SO incredibly much in this book, and love how the history of asian america was woven with the story and life of the author. a message ...more
Julia Liu
Dec 22, 2016 rated it really liked it
As an Asian-American, I really don't know much about Asian-American history. We're a group that are mostly excluded from textbooks and there are few classes we can take (even at college) to learn about our past. Yet we are just as important a building block of America as other ethnic groups are, and Helen Zia narrates the Asian-American story--from the first immigrants to the present day--in a very well-written and research-heavy book.

The two messages I got out of this book was:
1) The importan
Nate Hanson
Aug 01, 2017 rated it liked it
An exhaustingly meticulous record of the major struggles for equality of various Asian ethnicities in America, historically and currently. It was a slow but important read. Accounts of news media and Hollywood perpetuation of stereotypes, political willful ignorance, and struggles for unity between and within Asian ethnicities intensified hundreds of examples of racial injustices.

As a white reader with skeletal knowledge of Asian-American history, some historical accounts shocked me:

Brian Stein
Jan 04, 2012 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
Apr 14, 2008 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
Jun 20, 2008 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
Jun 19, 2013 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
Matt Diephouse
May 07, 2017 rated it liked it
My wife and I are in the process of adopting from China, and the adoption agency had this book on a list of recommended resources.

I found the first half of this book really interested. I had no idea that early Asian Americas encountered so much discrimination. E.g., for a long time Asians were denied citizenship and land ownership. This book really filled in some gaps in my knowledge.

I thought the latter half of the book was less interesting—particularly the sections on the 1990s. I think maybe
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. ...more
Jan 03, 2009 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. ...more
Nov 24, 2012 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. ...more
Feb 21, 2013 rated it liked it
Very important text for teaching Asian American Studies from a queer woman's perspective. This book works as on of the primary textbooks in a course on Asian American Women, Asian American Social History, Asian American Community Leadership, or an Asian American survey course. Some of the sections are dated, but the first three chapters still remain essential for teaching Asian American history and the unifying of a community. ...more
Sep 21, 2017 rated it it was amazing
This is a comprehensive book on the history of Asian Americans in America. I was impressed by the depth it covered and was thankful that Ms. Zia shared her knowledge and research with her book.

I wish that American high schools, universities and colleges would teach our citizens the important role Asian Americans played in building this country. But you can always learn it on your own! Read this book.
Tianjun Shen
Oct 21, 2013 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. ...more
Nov 03, 2020 rated it it was amazing
Recommends it for: All Americans, especially Asian Americans
I can't believe this book was published in 2000, and I've only just now read it. As an Asian American, I wish I had read it when it first came out, so I could have benefited from its clarity 20 years earlier.

This book chronicles when, where, and how Asian Americans have fit in within the tapestry of American history, politics, and culture. This book is a must-read for all Americans, not just Asian Americans. Everyone should know how much Asian Americans have helped shape this country, and Asian
Dec 22, 2007 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! ...more
Sep 04, 2010 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 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.
May 08, 2007 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.
Wanda Luong
Nov 27, 2007 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. ...more
Feb 24, 2008 rated it liked it
another decent intro to asian america kind of book - though not especially unique in this genre
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Helen Zia is the author of Asian American Dreams: The Emergence of an American People, a finalist for the Kiriyama Pacific Rim Book Prize (Bill Clinton referred to the book in two separate Rose Garden speeches). Zia is the co-author, with Wen Ho Lee, of My Country Versus Me: The First-Hand Account by the Los Alamos Scientist Who Was Falsely Accused of Being a Spy. She is also a former executive ed ...more

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