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Bengali Harlem and the Lost Histories of South Asian America

4.28  ·  Rating details ·  164 ratings  ·  12 reviews
In the final years of the nineteenth century, small groups of Muslim peddlers arrived at Ellis Island every summer, bags heavy with embroidered silks from their home villages in Bengal. The American demand for Oriental goods took these migrants on a curious path, from New Jersey s beach boardwalks into the heart of the segregated South. Two decades later, hundreds of India ...more
Hardcover, 294 pages
Published January 2013 by Harvard University Press
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Sookie
Sep 05, 2020 rated it really liked it
Recommended to Sookie by: Vipassana
Shelves: non-fiction
An account on Bengali immigrants to USA starting late 1880s. As the author notes, a lot of history is lost but what remains, Vivek Bald has wrapped it all in this collection. The final two chapters are anecdotal recounts of those who lived through 50s and 60s.

Some important dates:
• Beginning sometime in the 1880s, Muslim peddlers from a cluster of villages just north of Calcutta began traveling to the United States to sell “Oriental goods”—embroidered cotton and silk, small rugs, perfumes, an
...more
Ken Puddicombe
Jul 17, 2015 rated it really liked it
This is not just an admirable research into the lives of South East Asians who came to the USA at the turn of the twentieth century, but it explores the impact they had on society and the discrimination they faced during a period when U.S. Immigration policy blatantly excluded people of colour. Recommended for all history buffs.
Aliya
Feb 20, 2013 rated it it was amazing
A fascinating look at the South Asian and multiracial experience in the United States from the early 20th century, a history that has been almost completely forgotten but has played a role in the lives and future generations of so many. As the child of Bengali immigrants who came to the U.S. post-1965 for education, this book opened my eyes to the generations of Bengalis who came here before my parents, who came here for other purposes, who lived integrated lives with the African American, Creol ...more
Selima Kabir
Jun 18, 2020 rated it really liked it
In the weeks following George Floyd's death—murdered in Minneapolis by a police officer who knelt on his neck for eight minutes and 46 seconds—the conversation around diversity and inclusion has returned to the forefront, as has the role that persons of colour can play in challenging White supremacy. The events unfolding now merit revisiting author-filmmaker Vivek Bald's Bengali Harlem and the Lost Histories of South Asian America (2013), to remind ourselves why we owe allyship and solidarity to ...more
Affad Shaikh
Jun 10, 2018 rated it it was amazing
Simply a beautiful enlightening read on a micro history that for all purposes should be completely forgotten, yet so very meticulously pieced together and cleverly presented by Vivek Bald. I got a loaner copy from the Los Angeles County Library, but it deserves to be kept on my shelf and re-read and explored further, so I purchased a copy for myself.
William
Jan 06, 2018 rated it it was ok
Shelves: 2-5-star
An important topic, but incredibly dry because there is so little archival material that the author is actually drawing upon. It feels like it's reading a whole lot of nothing. A critical effort nonetheless. ...more
Anna
Jul 17, 2019 rated it it was amazing
a fantastic and informative account.
Sterling Hardaway
Great introduction and overview to a community and part of American history often overlooked
Mohsin Mirza
Jul 03, 2016 rated it it was amazing
Unforgettable, a must read for South Asians in America
Aditya
May 27, 2013 rated it it was amazing
Very repetitive to start, but gets to the heart of the historical account in the last two chapters. Great research and recovery of a lost history.
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Aslan Media Book ...: Can Unknown Histories Teach Us Lessons Today? 1 6 May 05, 2013 04:54PM  

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Vivek Bald is Associate Professor of Comparative Media Studies and Writing at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. He is the director of the documentary films Taxi-vala/Auto-biography and Mutiny: Asians Storm British Music, and is working on a film based on Bengali Harlem and the Lost Histories of South Asian America.

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