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Yellow: Race in America Beyond Black and White

3.72  ·  Rating details ·  481 ratings  ·  46 reviews
Writing in the tradition of W. E. B. Du Bois, Cornel West, and others who confronted the "color line" of the twentieth century, journalist, scholar, and activist Frank H. Wu offers a unique perspective on how changing ideas of racial identity will affect race relations in the twenty-first century. Wu examines affirmative action, globalization, immigration, and other ...more
Paperback, 416 pages
Published March 27th 2003 by Basic Books (first published March 2001)
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Average rating 3.72  · 
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Sep 16, 2010 rated it really liked it
It's a little concerning how long it took me to read this book. Warning: This is not a book you can read with your mind on your dinner.

Despite the fact that this book is not so easy to read, I thoroughly enjoyed this book. Wu's description of anti-Asian sentiments in America is compelling and interesting, going pretty in-depth into the origins of these stereotypes, and then gently bashing them to pieces. I particularly enjoyed his sections on "The Perpetual Foreigner" and the model minority. Wu
Anna Kim
Feb 02, 2010 rated it it was amazing
Finally, a book that breaks away from the racial dichotomy and explores what it means to Asian in America. Wu discusses both the old and new cultural stereotypes that Asian Americans face and how that kind of biased thinking disadvantages both Asian Americans and those who believe the stereotypes. Recognizing the rise of mixed marriages, Wu includes a chapter discussing how the concept of race is slowly becoming even less of a black and white issue and that any discussion must acknowledge and ...more
Lawrence Kelley
Mar 29, 2010 rated it really liked it
Via Google search, sought-out Brian Lamb's Book TV interview with Frank Wu, as part of self-education prior to an adoption in 2005. Was instantly sold on this author. Frank Wu - a professor at Howard University in Washington - who was born in Michigan in the mid-sixties, and is approximately the same age as myself. However, his life experiences have been profoundly impacted by his Chinese ethnicity. This book opened my eyes and informed my voting decision in the 2008 U.S. presidential election.
Aug 12, 2014 rated it it was ok
I got to page 190, when I decided life is too short to read a book that I just kinda hate.

Here is the thing with this book: I'm not the right audience. This is a common problem in my life, I'm often "not the right audience" for a book. AKA a nice of way of saying I fucking hated it, but in good conscience can't quite say was a "bad" book. Many readers said they disliked this book because it was too "academic" or too "boring". It was neither of these things. I just hate the author and his belief
See my original review post here:

I have read Yellow over the course of the past year. I did not read it consistently, but mainly used it to talk with students I work with and to provide them excerpts I thought might be useful in their own identity development. Last month, I decided to pick it back up, reread a couple of chapters, and finish the book. I do not think I can aptly provide a comprehensive review of Frank Wu’s Yellow without dedicating the next
Jul 05, 2012 rated it really liked it
This is a thick book for a reason: it's very thorough, touching on hotbutton race issues that show up frequently in media as simplified issues of Black and white, and using Asian-American experiences as a tool for complexity and depth to both dismantle the racism that makes them hotbutton issues and to suggest anti-racist challenges to those issues. It's definitely written by a lawyer, which can make it a slow read, and that in some ways leaves me really torn: as it covers that broad range of ...more
Jun 17, 2010 rated it liked it
Wu's book starts out amazingly -- he takes us through a journey of racism experienced by Asian Americans from forms of racism we, non-asians, are familiar with (e.g. stereotypes of Asians as intellectually gifted math nerds) to more invidious form of discrimination that are looked over or perhaps outdated but still relevant (e.g. societal belief that Asians and Asian Americans are more loyal to their native Asian countries than the US). I was absolutely riveted by the first three chapters of the ...more
Jan 11, 2008 rated it really liked it
Shelves: political
Frank H. Wu's Yellow is an excellent analysis of the absence of an Asian perspective in America's racial debate and what it's like to be an Asian-American as a result. Throughout the book, I found myself thinking "That's happened to me!" with an alarming frequency. Yellow also has the added benefit of explaining the dense analysis of a related subject in Edward W. Said's Orientalism in a way that is concise and easily understood.
I don't know why it took me five years to finally get around to reading this book. Wu touches on the model minority myth, the perpetual foreigner trope, affirmative action, immigration, intermarriage, coalition building and more. I especially liked how it wasn't only a call for non-APAs to think about race "beyond black and white"; it also challenged APAs to take more ownership and leadership in making that happen.
Feb 02, 2009 rated it it was ok
Shelves: abandoned
I've been reading a lot lately about the complicated issues of Asian American culture, but this defeated me. It's really interesting stuff, but a bit heavy. My brother has a copy, so I'll return to it someday. In the meantime, I'll stick with Adrian Tomine and Derek Kirk Kim, and Mariko Tamaki, et al.
Oct 14, 2012 rated it really liked it
Shelves: non-fiction
Dense but very interesting. Throwing all the countries Westerners consider Asian (close to 50) and lumping them into "Asian-American" doesn't allow for all the variances in language, beliefs, and cultures. Model minorities and other stereotypes associated with this population limits our understanding of the vastness of experiences Asian immigrants bring to the U.S.
Feb 05, 2011 rated it liked it
A good introduction to Asian America. I will say however, that Frank H. Wu's background is in law, which definitely shows throughout the book (a particularly long list of stereotyped caricatures of Asians in media sticks out in my mind). A bit dense to read at times (from what I recall as an undermotivated undergrad), but recommended reading.
Aug 27, 2012 rated it did not like it
Could not relate to it in places, still a well put together writing exercise and very passionate author...

Having had life experiences since reading the book, it might be a more appropriate now than when I read it.

Best part

Coming to a realization that there are issues being, in Kayne West's words, a single black female in the USA today
Jan 08, 2008 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Written by the first Asian American law professor at Howard, this book finally brings Asians to the table. Bravo!
Gabrielle David
Aug 21, 2009 rated it really liked it
Love Frank Wu, his writing is snappy, he indulges the reader with his personal experience and then goes on to discuss the world as it is
May 14, 2019 rated it it was amazing
" Right from the first chapter, Professor Wu lays out the dilemma of being Asian in America in terms that are spare but evocative: 'I remain not only a stranger in a familiar land, but also a sojourner through my own life....I alternate between being conspicuous and vanishing, being stared at or looked through. Although the conditions may seem contradictory, they have in common the loss of control. I am who others perceive me to be rather than how I perceive myself to be.' "

Such a powerful
May 15, 2017 rated it liked it
I appreciate this book tackling issues that have been touched on in discussions of race, but with more depth. Not only does Wu discuss Affirmative Action at length, but the Model Minority & Perpetual Foreigner dual myths, "diversity", and intermarriage and people of mixed race. As others have mentioned, the writing can be a bit dense at times, and I would get distracted by some of the tangents. Wu is also much more of an idealist than I am... not exactly a problem, but makes some of the ...more
Judi Paradis
Feb 23, 2018 rated it liked it
Shelves: adult-books
Wu provides a detailed discussion of the issues facing Asian-Americans. much of the historical discrimination was new to me and goes far beyond the Japanese internment camps off World War II. Wu tackles obvious issues, such as the downside of being the "model minority," but then goes on to discuss the complications of affirmative action, and the odd way that Asian-Americans are misunderstood by both White and Black Americans. Wu is a law professor at Howard University and his writing its ...more
Apr 20, 2018 rated it really liked it
I wasn't sure what I'd get from this book given that it's written by a law professor, but the arguments and analysis of race in the US are pretty solid. It's important in that there is a focus on East Asians and Asian Americans, who are commonly left out of this kind of dialogue, but also spends a fair amount of time addressing issues as they relate to other racialized groups. Sometimes the writing felt a little dense and/or disorganized, which slowed me down a bit.
Emily Wasek
Jul 29, 2017 rated it really liked it
As an Asian-American who's lived in the American South for much of her life, it's very gratifying to hear thoughts about the dynamic Asian-Americans add to the reductionist Black-White binary that oftentimes surrounds racial relations. However, since this book was published in 2002, I'd encourage readers to supplement this reading with newer, additional texts regarding Asian-American identity politics because so much has shifted in America's racial environment within the past decade.
Jonah Jones
Nov 19, 2019 marked it as to-read
I need to read this book for class and its very imporant
Margaret Schoen
Feb 05, 2018 rated it did not like it
This is a very important book that is very badly written. Just painful.
Jan 01, 2020 rated it liked it
Good but dense. Slow reading. Informative
Ryan Mishap
Aug 21, 2008 rated it really liked it
Subtitled “race in America Beyond Black and White”, Wu, a lawyer and professor at Howard University, blends his own experience with discussions and arguments. He brings his perspectives to affirmative action, Asian Americans as the “model minority”, the “Dilemma of Diversity”, multiculturalism, “Intermarriage and the Mixed Race Movement”, and “The Power of Coalitions.”
Whatever disagreements and problems I have with Wu’s ideas and arguments I set aside because of the enlightening and engaging
Nov 22, 2014 marked it as to-read
May 2015 AAUW Adelante Book Recommendation by Janice McKenzie, C. Springs Branch: Writing in the tradition of W. E. B. Du Bois, Cornel West, and others who confronted the “color line” of the 20th century, journalist, scholar, and activist Frank H. Wu offers a unique perspective on how changing ideas of racial identity will affect race relations in the 21st century. Wu examines affirmative action, globalization, immigration, and other controversial contemporary issues through the lens of the ...more
Ryan Dreier
Oct 23, 2008 rated it it was ok
I bought this book during my trip to NCORE and had Frank Wu sign my copy...I was really hoping to gain more insight in to asian american culture and struggles, being labeled as the model minority and how that label lead many people to ignore the struggles, prejudices, and intolerence that asian american face even in today's society but instead I felt like Wu who I believe is a lawyer discussing a lot of court cases and media cases
May 01, 2011 rated it really liked it
Shelves: non-fiction
This book discusses going beyond just black-white racial relations and focuses on the Asian American perspective. Wu incorporates his own personal anecdotes as he confronts common stereotypes of Asian Americans, pulls in Asian American history that most people are unfamiliar with, and the state of race relations in the US today. It's a very thought-provoking read.
Mar 05, 2008 rated it it was amazing
Excellent analysis of the absence of the Asian American struggle in racial debate. Wu discusses the history of violence against Asian American and how that affects modern culture today in politics, media, and academia. Long book but worth the read.
Min Ja
Aug 22, 2007 rated it it was amazing
Recommends it for: anyone
It has some interesting insight into being Asian in America. Not only Asian but it has an engaging style which I think many Asian Americans would find easy to relate to, and many anecdotes about growing up in America that make the author's analysis of race in America an interesting read.
May 24, 2007 marked it as to-read
Met Frank Wu and I think he-s cool. Plus he-s a Unitarian (or at least was exploring it at the time I met him when he came to speak at my college). Hope to read the book sooner than later, but the print is small, and I-ll admit, ashamedly that that doesn-t encourage, lol.
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“As I became older, I was given many masks to wear. I could be a laborer laying railroad tracks across the continent, with long hair in a queue to be pulled by pranksters; a gardener trimming the shrubs while secretly planting a bomb; a saboteur before the day of infamy at Pearl Harbor, signaling the Imperial Fleet; a kamikaze pilot donning his headband somberly, screaming 'Banzai' on my way to my death; a peasant with a broad-brimmed straw hat in a rice paddy on the other side of the world, stooped over to toil in the water; an obedient servant in the parlor, a houseboy too dignified for my own good; a washerman in the basement laundry, removing stains using an ancient secret; a tyrant intent on imposing my despotism on the democratic world, opposed by the free and the brave; a party cadre alongside many others, all of us clad in coordinated Mao jackets; a sniper camouflaged in the trees of the jungle, training my gunsights on G.I. Joe; a child running with a body burning from napalm, captured in an unforgettable photo; an enemy shot in the head or slaughtered by the villageful; one of the grooms in a mass wedding of couples, having met my mate the day before through our cult leader; an orphan in the last airlift out of a collapsed capital, ready to be adopted into the good life; a black belt martial artist breaking cinderblocks with his head, in an advertisement for Ginsu brand knives with the slogan 'but wait--there's more' as the commercial segued to show another free gift; a chef serving up dog stew, a trick on the unsuspecting diner; a bad driver swerving into the next lane, exactly as could be expected; a horny exchange student here for a year, eager to date the blonde cheerleader; a tourist visiting, clicking away with his camera, posing my family in front of the monuments and statues; a ping pong champion, wearing white tube socks pulled up too high and batting the ball with a wicked spin; a violin prodigy impressing the audience at Carnegie Hall, before taking a polite bow; a teen computer scientist, ready to make millions on an initial public offering before the company stock crashes; a gangster in sunglasses and a tight suit, embroiled in a turf war with the Sicilian mob; an urban greengrocer selling lunch by the pound, rudely returning change over the counter to the black patrons; a businessman with a briefcase of cash bribing a congressman, a corrupting influence on the electoral process; a salaryman on my way to work, crammed into the commuter train and loyal to the company; a shady doctor, trained in a foreign tradition with anatomical diagrams of the human body mapping the flow of life energy through a multitude of colored points; a calculus graduate student with thick glasses and a bad haircut, serving as a teaching assistant with an incomprehensible accent, scribbling on the chalkboard; an automobile enthusiast who customizes an imported car with a supercharged engine and Japanese decals in the rear window, cruising the boulevard looking for a drag race; a illegal alien crowded into the cargo hold of a smuggler's ship, defying death only to crowd into a New York City tenement and work as a slave in a sweatshop.

My mother and my girl cousins were Madame Butterfly from the mail order bride catalog, dying in their service to the masculinity of the West, and the dragon lady in a kimono, taking vengeance for her sisters. They became the television newscaster, look-alikes with their flawlessly permed hair.

Through these indelible images, I grew up. But when I looked in the mirror, I could not believe my own reflection because it was not like what I saw around me. Over the years, the world opened up. It has become a dizzying kaleidoscope of cultural fragments, arranged and rearranged without plan or order.”
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