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A Different Mirror: A History of Multicultural America

4.16  ·  Rating details ·  4,545 ratings  ·  284 reviews
"A Different Mirror" is a dramatic new retelling of our nation's history, a powerful larger narrative of the many different peoples who together compose the United States of America. In a lively account filled with the stories and voices of people previously left out of the historical canon, Ronald Takaki offers a fresh perspective - a "re-visioning" - of our nation's past ...more
Paperback, 508 pages
Published June 1st 1994 by Back Bay Books (first published 1993)
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Apr 25, 2013 rated it really liked it
In the beginning, there was only one version of American history -- the one that began with the "discovery" of North America by Europeans, particularly the English, who created a beachhead of "civilization" on the East coast and then conquered a series of "frontiers" moving westward until they "won" and became God's gift to humanity, creating a country which is like a city built on a hill shedding light and progress everywhere else on earth . That is the history I was taught in the 50's and earl ...more
Mar 03, 2018 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: favorites
I don't think I can describe how appreciative I am of Ronald Takaki's writing style.

This book gives an outline of how America has become the multicultural world it is today. This book was written so brilliantly that it was hard to put down for me. It contains so much forgotten pain and trauma that will correct misconceptions, answer unasked questions, and make sense of the American present multicultural reality.

A book I did not know I needed.

So inspirational. So important. SO good.
Tony Zheng
Aug 23, 2011 rated it liked it
This book is about point of views from different people who came to America thinking about having a better life, but came here only be put at work, discriminated and hated. But later generations saw what their ancestors went through and put more effort into education and business because they saw the good jobs came from education. People tried to fit into the American Society but they were not so easily accepted. From the two chapters that were read which were "Searching For Gold Mountain and Pa ...more
Feb 16, 2014 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: favorite
This book does not only depict the history of multi-cultural America but also predicts the future of multi-cultural America in a very pleasant and smooth way. The very beginning (A Different Mirror: the making of multicultural America) is the best part of the whole book. I just Love it. It gives general view and outline of how America has become multicultural. It is simple and straight to the point. Sometimes, you forget that you are reading a textbook full of Info, rather you think yourself rea ...more
Feb 23, 2020 rated it really liked it
Takaki tells the story of US (hUStory) by looking into "different mirrors", namely those of the American Indian, African American, Irish, Chinese, Japanese, Mexican, and Jewish experience rather than the Anglo/White mirror. Having read this book immediately after A People's History of the United States, i'm most struck by Takaki's willingness to see progress and improvement (eg, every strike ends with capitalists' conceding to workers' demands) ... and then there's the Shakespearean lens thru wh ...more
Jun 04, 2015 rated it it was amazing
Recently a student told me how angry she was about how much of American history was "kept from her." By "kept," she was commenting on her own education and the depth of ignorance that her education created by ignoring or "whitewashing" (her word) the whole history of her country--the USA. Using only one lens left her more than half-blind.

Finishing this remarkable history of immigration, our consistent use and abuse of the Other (sometimes invited, often forced, usually used, seldom valued) in o
Sep 23, 2013 rated it liked it
Has an interesting premise, but doesn't quite have the depth I expected. It mostly consisted of a series of formulaic tales of woe—here is how group X came to America, and how decent and hard-working they were, and how the Anglos mistreated them, and here is how group Y came here, and also worked hard and was decent, and was also mistreated, etc. I guess there might still be people out there who have prejudices about minorities and aren't aware that this country has a history of racism and ethni ...more
Ryan Mishap
Oct 21, 2008 rated it liked it
Shelves: history
Covers different ground than Zinn's People's GHistory, and it isn't nearly as long and sweeping, but it also covers things Zinn barely touched on or didn't mention. Especially Hawaii--where the author's family is from. Well worth reading for the history you didn't get in school. My only complaint is that he frames the whole book through "The Tempest", using Caliban as the Other through which to view the history of the so-called New World. It gets annoying after the third time. ...more
Apr 01, 2018 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
This is a great history book, full of real people's stories, which make historical events much more intelligible and interesting. Some chapters of this book were assigned reading for my American history course, so I had expected a struggle. Surprisingly, I've found myself reading the whole book with great interest. I can, however, recommend the revised edition, supplemented with lots of updated information concerning the recent events. Clearly written and accessible, the book offers an extraordi ...more
Feb 28, 2021 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: non-fiction, work
This was an extremely dense book but one I’m extremely glad that I took the time to read. I was familiar with quite a few of the individual events that occurred in this book, but seeing them outlined in such detail and such frequency was truly overwhelming.

It was also pretty sobering to read the blatant prejudice in the quotes from so many venerated Americans.

I find myself wanting to encourage everyone I know to read this book, but I feel like the size (440+ pages) and sheer density of informa
David Whitehead
Jun 07, 2020 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: favorites
This book transformed the way that I viewed the US. A beautiful book about a troubled, hegemonic country. On my list to reread.
Yan Kadouri
Dec 07, 2010 rated it really liked it
A Different Mirror : A History of Multicultural America by Ronald Takaki is a book which provides the readers with perspectives of people who come form different cultures and how they are accepted by the American people but also Ronald Takaki does a good job in taking this events form the past and attaching them to modern day society and how the idea of racism has not disappeared.A on going theme is us against them because on one side the owners who are bringing this racism to the different race ...more
Gary Land
May 10, 2010 rated it really liked it
This is the second time that I have read this book. It is a highly readable history of American immigration and ethnic history, of interest to both the scholar and layman. My only criticism is that Takaki concentrates so much on the difficulties--racial prejudice, legal discrimination, etc.--, all of which is certainly true, that he neglects to explain why immigrants kept coming to the United States and what happened to them into the third and fourth generation that was born in America. Nonethel ...more
Jul 20, 2008 rated it it was amazing
Recommends it for: All High School students and Everyone else
Recommended to Korel by: many people
This book and Howard Zinn's A People's History of the United States are the typical coming-of-age my-high-school-history-class-didn't-mention-that-capitalism-is-oppressive-ah-ha! books. These books also tend to be a foundation for many of us white folks to start understanding racism as something real, still alive, and the basis of our economy. Be sure to read something light hearted at the same time, unless you have a strong sense of optimism. ...more
Social History (as opposed to "official" history) has emerged as its own genre in recent years. Perhaps its most famous book is Howard Zinn's A People's History of the United States. I'll also add to that my personal favorite American Nations. These books eschew the standard fare "big events" or "names and dates" approach to history to focus on the human aspect. Some do this better than others. I'm not opposed to the "big event" type of history - they are, after all, big events. But I support th ...more
Francesca Calarco
Feb 01, 2018 rated it really liked it
I tend to be skeptical of books covering broad stretches of history, and this was then compounded by the number of groups Takaki sought to represent (e.g., Native Americans, African Americans, Chinese Americans, Japanese Americans, Mexican Americans, Jewish Americans, Irish Americans, etc.). That said, this collection was well executed and is definitely worth a read.

Due to Takaki's objective of re-examining deep American history through the lens of disenfranchised groups, everyone and their mot
Sep 15, 2019 rated it really liked it
Shelves: nonfiction, race
Takaki presents a revised history of the US; he focuses not on the European (white) settlers as much as the other groups that have been persecuted along the way. He makes a very compelling argument for the ways in which whites came to American to avoid religious persecution in England and perpetuated British, colonial racism.

Using the framework of Shakespeare's The Tempest, Takaki explores the British idea of the "savage" and whites use of dehumanization to dominate on a global scale. He does a
Jul 28, 2018 rated it it was amazing
This book is only 400 pages, but it took me three-and-a-half months to read it. I didn't like what I was reading.

In this thoroughly sourced text, UC Berkely historian Ronald Takaki describes how the British and then the Americans treated the Irish, Native Americans, black slaves, Eastern Europeans, Jews, the Chinese, the Japanese, the Hawaiians. He describes their contributions to America. He describes their battle to be accepted, even to become citizens.

This was not the America I learned abou
Oct 31, 2018 rated it it was amazing
Well written, well sourced. Like Settlers, but more in depth.

I wish I could give a good summary beyond that, but it's just - it's a lot. And absolutely necessary for everyone to read, if you give a crap about how we got where we are today.

The history of minorities in the US is the history of how settler-colonialists and unions screwed them over.
Petter Nordal
Jan 29, 2021 rated it it was amazing
This is an essential book for anyone who actually wants to understand the history of the United States. It's exactly what a history book should be: Takaki shows where the information comes from and shows you things you didn't know about race, economics and policy going back to the founding of the American state. ...more
Clara  Prizont
Jul 04, 2020 rated it it was amazing
Finally finished! The first half was a little slow but filled with important information so I took my time getting through it. The second half was incredible. Read it at a lightning pace. Such an important book!!!
Dec 09, 2016 rated it really liked it
Shelves: i-own, non-fiction

This was a "textbook" for one of my classes, but I recommend this to everyone, not only to get a picture of the cultural identity of America, but to also understand how much racism, bigotry, injustice, and violence immigrant groups have had to tolerate. This is vitally important, now more than ever, because our country is at such a battleground state right now when it comes to social issues and issues involving minority groups. Our president-elect and all the extremists of his party are see
Marc Ballon
Jan 21, 2020 rated it it was amazing
An absolute modern-day classic. Ronald Takaki does a brilliant job dissecting America's troubled past without histrionics and finger-pointing. His is a must read for anybody interested in a more complete picture of America's history: the good, the bad, and the very ugly.
Sharon Lee
May 09, 2013 rated it it was amazing
A lot of students (myself included) lack true knowledge and understanding of real history. Growing up in a public school I was not taught or told of the stories of minority groups, rather only the victories of America and how the US "made a way" for other countries. Takaki includes personal experiences as well as the experiences of oppressed minority groups in order to present the notion of "A different mirror". Many people below have commented on Takaki's credibility and writing; however, he is ...more
Danielle Forward
Apr 05, 2017 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: favorites
This book should be required reading in U.S. schools. Empowering, liberating, and enlightening, this book has given me so much clarity on how and why things in the United States exist as they are for all the different races that reside here. U.S. history is finally told from the perspective of Native Americans, African Americans, and immigrant groups whose stories are normally untold. Takaki is an excellent writer and a thorough researcher.

The most important contribution this book has, though, i
Josefina Duran
Jun 05, 2007 rated it it was amazing
This is a REAL history book. Im pretty upset at myself for not have taken a class with Ronald Takaki while I attended Berkeley.

This should be a high school text book.

Although there are many truths to people's histories and as the author mention not everyone's histories are presented in this book.

If you ever wonder why a group of people are in this land, this is the book to reveal that and much more. This book exposes the truths of the atrocities committed to native people, language, culture a
Jun 01, 2011 rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: non-fiction, own
I had to read this book for a college class, so my opinion may be a little biased. The information presented in A Different Mirror was all relatively new to me; it is the story of our ancestors and immigrants that is never taught to us in school. Every immigrant population in America is covered, overviewing their histories in the country, their struggles, triumphs, and finishing with how they are in present day America. Takaki has clearly done a lot of research. Every single person deserves to k ...more
Kathy Jones
Nov 19, 2016 rated it it was amazing
Thank you Anna Teggatz for recommending this book to me. It took me a while to read because there is so much to digest. This history book should be required reading in all schools. Often times I think our American history is Anglo biased, leaving out the rest of us feeling marginalized or not significant enough to warrant more than a paragraph or a chapter at best. Our collective history of how we came to be citizens of this great nation is humbling and heartbreaking. There are so may parallels ...more
Nov 28, 2009 rated it really liked it
I read this book as an assignment for my history class. It was long, but not difficult. I learned a lot about the multi-cultural building of the United States. I was previously unaware of how difficult it has been for minorities in the U.S. I am left with many questions, especially regarding how we as a nation can come together as one nation, under God.
Mar 20, 2015 rated it it was amazing
A _MUST READ_ panoramic history that blows away the stereotypical image of the United States as a happy melting pot. Using primary sources, Takaki shows how the bourgeoisie consciously used institutional racism to expand and maintain capitalism at the expense of Native Americans, Africans and Mexican, Chinese, Japanese, Irish, Jewish and other immigrant groups. Riveting.
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Ronald Toshiyuki Takaki was an American academic, historian, ethnographer and author.

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