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Strangers from a Different Shore: A History of Asian Americans

4.14  ·  Rating details ·  988 ratings  ·  56 reviews
In an extraordinary blend of eloquent narrative history, vivid personal recollection, and oral testimony, Ronald Takaki relates the diverse 150-year history of Asian Americans. Through richly detailed vignettes--by turns bitter, funny, and inspiring--he offers a stunning panorama of a neglected part of American history. 16 pages of photographs.
Paperback, 640 pages
Published September 23rd 1998 by Back Bay Books (first published 1989)
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Issues that I had with this book:

1. This book is 491 pages long. Of these, only 24 were spent discussing the experiences of Indian Americans. Was it because Takaki exhaustively covers all Asian immigration to America? No. It's because the book focuses heavily on Japanese, Chinese and Korean immigrants, with lesser amounts of time being spent on Filipino immigrants and as said, 24 pages on Indian Americans. I suppose there are also some short write ups on the experiences of refugees from Vietnam
John Lim
Jul 31, 2020 rated it really liked it
A thoughtfully written history of Asian-American migration, especially in the discussion of migration from SE Asia (Laos, Vietnam, Cambodia). It's unnerving to think about how much of the Asian diasporic experience is grounded in war: the Korean War, World War II, the Vietnam War, the "Secret War" in Laos. Takaki also has a great discussion of affirmative action and the "model minority" myth. My only qualm: how Takaki uses the phrase "strangers from a different shore" ~every four pages. ...more
Morgan Dhu
Mar 16, 2018 rated it really liked it
Ronald Takaki's Strangers from a Different Shore is a history of Asian-Americans. I wish I could find something similar that deals with the history of Asian communities in Canada, because one thing I do know is that while some of the patterns of immigration and exclusion are the same - from the early use of East Asians as a cheap, expendable labour force, to the incarceration of Japanese immigrants in interment camps, and much that happened in-between - the shared Commonwealth membership of Cana ...more
Jan 03, 2021 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
This is an incredibly comprehensive history of the immigration patterns and experiences of various Asian American groups. Takaki clearly shows the paradoxes in the way Asian immigrants were treated in the United States: They were heavily recruited for menial jobs by those desperate for workers, then accused of "stealing jobs." They were given pitiful wages and substandard housing and denied access to resources that would give them a better quality of life, then accused of "living like animals." ...more
Anatalio Ubalde
Aug 21, 2020 rated it it was amazing
Strangers from a different shore is a very tough book to read coming from a pacific islander. This book is about the hardships and brutal things that my people and ancestors had to deal with. From racism, unemployment, death, underpaying jobs, etc. this book explores what Asians had to deal with when coming from there corrupt home countries. As well as what they dealt with for hundreds of years. Ronald Takaki gives a beautiful representation of what the Asian race dealt with for many decades and ...more
Jul 19, 2020 rated it it was amazing
Much here I didn't know, well presented and enlightening. I'm astonished at the obstacles these people had to overcome, and how well they did just that. ...more
Jan 09, 2011 rated it really liked it
Read for my Asian American History class the book is detailed but not boring relating the story of how different nationalities of Asians came to America and when. Some came willingly and some were forced from their countries due to harsh regimes and American influence. Real numbers are given and real stories with names to personalize the struggle to try to fulfill dreams. Most came not as inhabiters but as sojourners, never meaning to stay but caught in the reality of trying to earn a living in ...more
Z. Rose
Apr 09, 2014 rated it it was amazing
This is my inaugural Goodreads review. I felt that this book warranted one because it's subject matter is immensely important to me. During my undergrad, I minored in ethnic studies with a focus on Asian Americans. Myself, being first-generation Filipino American, I've had a curiousity about the influence of Asian Americans in society.

"Strangers From a Different Shore" was the most referenced text in my university's intro to Asian American history course. It focused on an overview of mainly the
Rachel Matsuoka
Jul 25, 2013 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: favorites
My only comment is: Every American should read this.

An excellent, thorough summation of the American history that is very much absent from our history books. I loved that Takaki incorporated excerpts of poetry and prose written by the men and women of early Asian America to show real emotions and how they dealt with the struggles they were faced with.

A lot was familiar to me, more than I thought. I was amused and delighted at his descriptions of Japanese and Hawaiian culture, island life, the e
Aug 28, 2015 rated it it was amazing
I can only hope and wish that this book ends up in the hands of as many Asian Americans living in white suburbs across the country as possible(I grew up in the midwest).

It's definitely not a comprehensive look at Asian American history. He definitely focuses mostly on Chinese, Japanese, and Korean Americans. There is a whole chapter each on South Asian and Filipino Americans. As a Japanese American, the history portrayed in this book may have meant a little more to me than for other Asian Americ
Wai Yip Tung
Feb 06, 2012 rated it really liked it
This is a sweeping 150 years history of Asian immigrant in united states. It traces the situation of various Asian groups, primary Chinese, Japanese and Filipinos. Brought in to fill the labor need, with the largest number concentrated in California and Hawaii, they are often rejected by the mainstream white society. They are treated with hostility, discriminated, marginalized and condemned by constitution for the most part of history.

Today in San Francisco, Chinese is elected to the position bo
James Peavler
Oct 01, 2010 rated it really liked it
Incredibly interesting for anyone who is interested in the history of immigration to America. Many of the books out there on Asiatic immigration deals with China. I found it nearly impossible to find anything on any other countries. Although dense in some areas, this is a great beginners book for anyone who does not know much on Asian immigration to America. It covers the entire spectrum, from Chinese to Japanese to Korean to Indians, and gives a great overview of why and how members of these pa ...more
Jan 01, 2014 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: china, japan, korea
Good historical info on the waves of immigrants, the driving forces getting them to the US and what happened to them when they got here. Interesting general information about Chinese Japanese Korean Filipino's and Indians. Sociology of immigrant labor movements. It's all about communication. Japanese immigrant women had it easier because of the Meiji restoration policy of education for both sexes. For comparison read Thomas Sowells Migration and Culture, the Chinese and the Japanese sections. Th ...more
It is difficult to determine where ideology ends and the truth begins in this book. In bringing to light the lives of the forgotten, Mr Takaki has to be commended. His writing style is also significantly more approachable than most academics'. However, his political purpose of forging a common Asian American experience runs contrary to the facts and his conclusions tend to arrive before their supporting evidence does. In sum, Mr Takaki cuts an ambiguous figure. ...more
Oct 01, 2008 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: non-fiction
Have you heard of Angel Island? It is west coast counter-part to Ellis island where thousands of Asian immigrants came to this country seeking a new life. It's part of history that still seems woefully absent in our education system. This historical book reads like a novel, accounting the heart wrenching stories of Japanese, Chinese, Filpino, Indian and other immigrant groups who were an integral part of building this nation. ...more
Apr 06, 2009 rated it it was amazing
I'm saddened that I no longer own this book but it was a good read. I'm so touched by the struggles and obstacles immigrants had to endure throughout the course of American history - not known to many people. I'm glad there are books like this that can offer many viewpoints for our culture to explore. This is definitely a well-written and amazing book that can enhance one's perception in diversity and pluralism - especially for college students. ...more
Sep 30, 2011 rated it really liked it
a historical, picturesque account of Japanese lives in America, started from their incoming to their breeds. Takaki explains how Japanese grew in population through stages of policy adoption. The best one I remember is the opening of Ellis Island for Japanese mail bride, which swelled into big matchmaker business at that time. Takaki also depict the situation faced by these brides in their newly lands. Such well and lively exploration.
♥ Sarah
Dec 07, 2012 rated it really liked it
Shelves: non-fiction
Read this awhile back for an Asian American Studies class. A "MUST-READ" for all ETHNIC STUDIES majors or minors. And for anyone interested in the history of Asian Americans. For example, Angel Island, Chinatowns (ghettos, vices, prostitution), Hawaii (sugar plantation workers), the Chinese Exclusion Act, racism, Asians as "model minorities" and so much more.

Poignant blend of historical facts, narrative, diaspora, and the Asian American experience as a whole.
Mar 22, 2007 rated it really liked it
Recommends it for: asians who wanna find their roots
Probably one of the best written, most interesting history books I've read. (And I'm not just saying that cause of my hapa bias). I've read about half the book so far - Takaki doesn't hold any punches and freely talks about the good and the gritty about the immigration, and settling, of Asians in America. ...more
Jan 12, 2009 is currently reading it
I feel like i've already gotten the "point" of this book from reading the introduction. I hope that the book focuses a little more instead of layering numbers & statistics as a way of trying to convey its importance. Relevant social dissection & plans to change stereotypes would be the true important factors of a cultural history. ...more
Aug 26, 2012 rated it really liked it
I read this book for my Asian-American History class and I thoroughly enjoyed it. Takaki covered a lot of history and difficult concepts using personal stories and anecdotes and less of high-academic writing that can alienate the reader. In this way, it was easier to follow, to understand, and kept me engaged.
Sep 22, 2012 rated it it was amazing
American immigration history over the centuries, with original sources - writings, newspaper clippings, etc. The author addresses Asian immigration in particular, but provides insight that is applicable to today. We have wrestled with this issue since the 1700's, and our public policy changes have reflected the struggle. This drama hasn't changed, only the actors. ...more
Apr 07, 2008 rated it it was ok
he uses the phrase "strangers from a different shore" on almost every page of this book. the annoyance from that alone sorta overshadowed any positive feelings i had about this. it's basically a history book. ...more
Kiki Unhinged
Aug 06, 2013 rated it did not like it
If you like reading personal accounts of Asian immigrant experiences this book is for you. I found it to be too much fluff making it longer than necessary and more tedious to read. However, it was also quite eye-opening.
Aug 06, 2013 rated it did not like it
If you like reading personal accounts of Asian immigrant experiences this book is for you. I found it to be too much fluff making it longer than necessary and more tedious to read. However, it was also quite eye-opening.
Oct 01, 2013 rated it really liked it
All US History teachers should use this book. All people living in the US should read this since most US History teachers don't use this book. Well written, well researched, interesting. Up there with Zinn's histories. ...more
Nov 10, 2013 rated it really liked it
When I read this book 25 years ago or so, it was not for a class or anything. I was so impressed with the sweep, I kept my original copy and use it as a reference book. It is focused primarily on California and West Coast, exploring origins of Chinatown and history of exclusion laws.
Brian Sperry
May 31, 2015 rated it really liked it
Required reading for American History from an Asian-American Perspective class. It was actually pretty good, and often quite insightful. It was hard to keep up with chronologically as the subject tends to jump around by nationality more so than by time.
Osama Salah El Din
Nov 16, 2016 rated it really liked it
This book is 491 pages long. Of these, only 24 were spent discussing the experiences of Indian Americans. Was it because Takaki exhaustively covers all Asian immigration to America? No. It's because the book focuses heavily on Japanese, Chinese and Korean immigrants ...more
May 20, 2007 rated it liked it
an academic-style read of Asian Am. history and stories of migration. interesting information, though.
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Ronald Toshiyuki Takaki was an American academic, historian, ethnographer and author.

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  If you listen to NPR regularly, you’ve likely heard the voice of Shankar Vedantam, the longtime science correspondent and host of the radio...
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“Certain it is,” he predicted in his book The Land of Gold, published in 1855, “that the greater the diversity of colors and qualities of men, the greater will be the strife and conflict of feeling.” Helper insisted that America should be a homogeneous white society. Comparing the entry of the Chinese in the West to the existence of blacks in the East, he protested: “Our population was already too heterogeneous before the Chinese came. I should not wonder at all, if the copper of the Pacific yet becomes as great a subject of discord and dissension as the ebony of the Atlantic.” 1 likes
“Chinese men were seen as sensuous creatures, especially interested in white women. A writer for the New York Times reported that he noticed “a handsome but squalidly dressed young white girl” in an opium den and inquired about her. The owner replied: “Oh, hard time in New York. Young girl hungry. Plenty come here. Chinaman always have something to eat, and he like young white girl. He! He!” 0 likes
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