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The Making of Asian America: A History

4.19  ·  Rating details ·  692 ratings  ·  113 reviews
The definitive history of Asian Americans by one of the nation’s preeminent scholars on the subject.

In the past fifty years, Asian Americans have helped change the face of America and are now the fastest growing group in the United States. But as award-winning historian Erika Lee reminds us, Asian Americans also have deep roots in the country. The Making of Asian America t
Hardcover, 528 pages
Published September 1st 2015 by Simon Schuster
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Sep 06, 2015 rated it really liked it
File under "More stuff I didn't learn in school." With the recent news about Asians being in the news (on immigration, in literature, in any number of subject areas), this seemed like an intriguing pickup. I knew a bit about the Japanese internment camps from World War II. Chinese immigrants coming for the gold rush. But what other parts of Asian-American history did I not know?
A lot. As this doorstop (I mean that nicely) of a book shows, the history of Asian immigration to the Americas shows a
Oct 28, 2015 rated it really liked it
Thoroughly researched and compellingly well-written history of Asian migration to the United States. Its generally papered-over how much discrimination Asians faced when first arriving, many as either indentured laborers and even slaves to the Americas, and what a hard fought battle it was to establish themselves in these countries. They faced racist laws, violence, denigration as national security threats and "unassimilable foreigners," yet generally proved these allegations wrong. They have al ...more
First things first: yes, The Making of Asian America is very well researched but not the most well written (at times with unclear and confusing event descriptions, at times a regurgitation of statistics or too many personal stories). Yes, The Making of Asian America, by nature of the undertaken task, necessarily sacrifices depth for breadth. These two points notwithstanding, I really think The Making of Asian America should be mandatory reading--not only for Asian Americans so they can better un ...more
Aug 08, 2016 rated it really liked it

I do NOT have a head for history, so I'm grateful for books like this that can help educate me on topics that are a part of American history and yet are not covered at all in education. The reader of the audio book was excellent, and I tracked along just fine. I loved how the author talked about Asian immigrants to the United States from all kinds of Asian countries, definitely chipping away at the concept of the Asian monolith (ie, that we are all the same). She also did a great job
May 26, 2019 rated it it was amazing
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
Aug 11, 2018 rated it really liked it
Thorough history of Asian immigration from before the United States was even founded, to present day. Includes stories of individuals as well as many statistics of large groups of people from all over Asia -- SE, south, east, etc. Definitely not something I consider "easy" reading (it took me a few months), but is essential to understanding the context of how Asians and Asian Americans have operated in society for hundreds of years. This coming from someone who grew up in the Midwest and had onl ...more
Jul 07, 2017 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Very good. This book was a great chronicle of history regarding many of the Asian people groups who have come to America. The author details the struggles faced by each group and how immigration laws, wars, and racism caused so much difficulty and pain for families. It's the story that I didn't hear much of growing up as a white American. I appreciated her honesty, and sharing the good and the bad of the lives of many Asian Americans. Even though it was long and a lot of history, I found myself ...more
Zara Rahman
Apr 01, 2017 rated it it was amazing
I thoroughly enjoyed this book. It gave me an insight into Asian Americans, and a much broader overview than anything I've read before. It includes a historical perspective which helped me understand much more how different populations and nationalities of Asian Americans ended up in the US, and perhaps more crucially, the relationships between different nationalities of Asian Americans and other ethnic minorities too.
It was a good book to read while being here in the US, particularly in New Yo
Apr 19, 2020 rated it it was amazing
Wow, I wish I had learned all this in school! As an Asian American myself, I learned so much and this really broadened my perspective. This is must-read remedial education for pretty much anyone who grew up in the US. Our US history books had a few paragraphs on the Chinese exclusion act and the Japanese interment camps, but there is so much more context that is missing and so much detail that we didn’t learn. I’m so glad I read this.
The most comprehensive Asian American history 101 book I've come across, including details about early communities that settled in CA and New Orleans in the 18-19th century, undocumented immigration in the early 20th century after immigration legislation exclusion, stories of the wide diversity of Asian communities (Hmong, Cambodian, Vietnamese, Korean, Japanese, Laotian, Indian). Great read!
Claire Perko
Aug 05, 2018 rated it it was amazing
This is a must read for anyone who wants a greater understanding to a very complex history of Asian American immigration. Dense and well researched, this gives a great overview of historic and current immigration issues.
Fantastic! Super thorough, without being dry. With all the hysteria surrounding immigration these days, now is the perfect time to gain some perspective on this complicated issue through the lens of Asian American immigration, by reading this history published in 2015.
Angela Sun
Jan 01, 2017 rated it really liked it
A comprehensive history on Asian American immigration and assimilation into the Americas -- from the mass Chinese migration during the railroad and gold rush era to the Filipino independence to the modern stereotypes of the model minority -- Lee manages to condense a lot of history on immigration from a large geographic mass into an easily readable book. If you want a primer on Asian American history, this is a great read. I loved the historic images of how the pacific union rail was built by a ...more
I listened to this on CD. I became aware that, at times, it sounded like the same story over and over again: the prejudice, the immigration barriers, the legal injustice. It reminded me of the quote that history does not repeat itself, but it rhymes (apparently not a quote by Mark Twain, but worthy of him).
It was interesting to hear the story of other Asian Americans. I was familiar with the Chinese and Japanese and to some degree Southeast Asian stories, but not of Koreans, Philippinos, and I
Dec 04, 2016 rated it it was amazing
This should be required reading. Well researched. Eye-opening. Changed my perspective of America and this nation's history.
Sooho Lee
Aug 15, 2017 rated it it was amazing
"Despite attempts to lump them together or tell their through a simplistic and monolithic "model minority" lens, Asian Americans and their histories are in fact exceedingly diverse and complicated. To be Asian American in the twenty-first century is an exercise in coming to terms with a contradiction: benefiting from new positions of power and privilege while still being victims of hate crimes and microaggressions that dismiss Asian American issues and treat Asian Americans as outsiders in their ...more
Stephanie Nguyen
Mar 28, 2020 rated it it was amazing
I FINISHED THIS BOOK!!! It just took me several months, and give or take juggling multiple books in between. Overall, Professor Lee did a phenomenal job updating previous seminal Asian American survey history books, like Ronald Takaki's Strangers from a Different. Professor Lee wrote an article in the Special Issue on Teaching and Doing Research in the Midwest for the Journal of Asian American Studies back in 2009, and she wrote about changing her pedagogy and research to reflect histories and A ...more
Feb 12, 2018 rated it liked it
Shelves: non-fiction
I want to give this more stars because there really isn't anything else out there I've found with this breadth about Asian-American history. I understand that because of breadth, depth ultimately has to suffer on a topic of this scope unless you want a multi-volume book, but I was still somewhat disappointed at how repetitive it was within a text that is already having to make sacrifices of depth.

Also (and some could accuse me of personal bias due to my background, which I'll admit up front), t
Matt Fitz
Sep 04, 2019 rated it really liked it
While Asian Americans tend to make up folks on the higher end of socio-economic and educational success statistics, they are also overly-represented on the lower ends. That's something worth considering.

Asian-American history is my blindspot. While largely due to it not really being a subject in school growing up in the pre-cultural diversity era, as a grown up Asian man in the 21st century, that blind spot is owned wholly by me now. This book did a lot to fix my prism and did it in a nicely org
Nanako Mizushima
Jun 09, 2019 rated it it was amazing
As an Asian American, loneliness is my life. Notice how much of the map of World Languages is covered with Green. ( ) Roots of the Romance languages link Europe, the Americas and my home country, the United States, together. So even though Americans may find European immigrants different -- there are threads of familiarity and empathy. Immigrants, and their children, from these countries can assimilate. There is no such link of language between most of th ...more
Kevin Hu
Lee's TMoAA is an incredibly comprehensive look at Asian America that, unlike past histories written on the same subject, is the most contemporary reader. Her research being insurmountable is an understatement. She has included personal testimonies, profiles, and data, and data analysis that convinces us that an Asian American history is inevitably global and cannot be sufficient if it does not simultaneously take into consideration the context for global migration and the reasons for its flow t ...more
Feb 19, 2019 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Page count is sort of misleading since about 35% of it is bibliography. There are footnotes galore.

I found this an interesting and almost woefully informative read. As an AsAm, I'm kind of horrified at how often I was reading and thinking "I didn't know that," or only had a cursory understanding of something. It's a very well thought out and researched books, with lots of facts and hard numbers, which I appreciated because I thought having numbers (ex. comparisons of wage potential in the US ver
Dec 04, 2018 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
The work seems almost incomplete as the story is still unfolding all around us, and even that which has already transpired seems treated almost a bit shallowly. But there are enjoyable vignettes throughout - a bit for everyone so-to-speak. Clearly for the WWII years the story of the internment of Japanese-Americans takes center stage. Lee rightly spells out the injustice. That said, once one holds up the ongoing (at that time) immigration struggle that was taking place in all the Americas it see ...more
Jay Li
Jan 14, 2020 rated it it was amazing
Very good general account of Asian American history that touches on many relevant groups. Should be required reading for middle/high school children as this piece of American history was completely missing in my history curriculum. A good reminder that while Asians have been praised for our success in America, we have never been seen as Americans no matter how “American” we become in our values. This is a scary thought because if our comfort in the current system is not built on shared American ...more
Jul 22, 2017 rated it it was amazing
An exceptional primer for Asian American history, as well as an excellent analysis of "new racism" in the 21st century. While at times, I felt that the writing lacked some depth (conditions leading to immigration in the early 20th century, for example, in favor of concentrating upon what happened once immigrants arrived), I understand that there is only so much space here and do not count that as a flaw. I feel that this is the sort of book (or THE book) that will lead students of Asian American ...more
Jan 07, 2019 rated it really liked it
I read this because I wanted to learn more about Asian-American history, as it is usually marginal or non-existent in American history textbooks, documentaries, museums, etc. I think this was a very good first step in my quest, as it covered a huge geographic area (Canada down through South America), time scale (pre-establishment of the U.S.A. to present), and range of Asian-American experiences (East- South-East- and South-Asians, immigrants, >2nd generation, adopties, refugees, etc.). I learne ...more
May 17, 2017 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: 2017
Stuff you missed in history class... because it was likely never taught.

This book is an undertaking. Lee must have pored over thousands of documents, books, and interviews to put this together and distill it into this 400+ page volume. It's an excellent overview about Asians in America, and not just Chinese, Korean, and Japanese Americans either. The book spans from the time of the explorers to present.

I found myself wanting to know more about certain aspects of Asian American history as the boo
Tremendous from the first moment to the final sentence. Not a day went by that I listened to this on my commute without posting to Twitter or FB or here about how smart, how well-written, how parallel to now, how informative about the past, how brilliant this book is. When I forget every date and detail, one main thing will stick with me: If white people in the past had not been so racist and likely to create laws that were against Asian (East Asian, South Asian, Southeast Asian) immigrations, t ...more
B. Cheng
Jul 18, 2017 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: library, china
This is a very well researched, long read that is definitely worth it. There is a lot that anyone interested in the issue would know, but also a good amount that is very new, especially that mixed race marriages, even in "liberal California", was illegal even into the middle of the 20th century was surprising, as well as the idea that Asians, in particular the Chinese, were the first to exploit border weaknesses, especially coming through Mexico. The author does a good job breaking down Asian im ...more
May 31, 2019 rated it really liked it
This book taught me so much. Going into it, I thought it would be more about Asian cultures, but it's really a history of Asian immigration (from people who were forced here, to those who came searching for a better life, to refugees) and discrimination in the U.S. It's an in-depth analysis of the waves of immigration, how each group was treated and why, and also contains personal stories. There is information about Chinese, Japanese, Korean, Vietnamese, Cambodian, Hmong, Indian, and other peopl ...more
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I’m a writer and professor who loves reading and writing. I finished my fourth book: America for Americans: A History of Xenophobia in the U.S., which will be published by Basic Books/Hachette on November 26, 2019.

I’m a historian who still does history the old-fashioned way by doing research in the archives. I get excited finding dusty documents, but I’m also fully immersed in the 21st century as

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