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The Karma Of Brown Folk

4.14  ·  Rating details ·  403 ratings  ·  36 reviews
What does it mean to be a model minority?

"How does it feel to be a problem?" asked W. E. B. Du Bois of black Americans in his classic The Souls of Black Folk. A hundred years later, Vijay Prashad asks South Asians, "How does it feel to be a solution?"

In this kaleidoscopic critique, Prashad looks into the complexities faced by the members of a model minority—one, he claims,
Paperback, 272 pages
Published March 12th 2001 by Univ Of Minnesota Press (first published 2000)
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Nov 18, 2020 rated it it was amazing
An excellent book by Vijay Prashad, from his days as an academic. There is a lot to digest here. This is the first time I read a book that is about "me", or people like me, in the sense that it is about the South Asian diaspora in North America.

While it focuses mostly on the US, on the Hindu community, and is more than 20 years old, there are still incredibly important points being made in this book. The chapter on "Yankee Hinduvta" is especially prescient. I found many of Prashad's dissections
Dec 27, 2019 rated it really liked it
Essential. I'm glad I read this in the year when I've been reading so much India and US history, as its argument lives in the intersect. But I wish I had read it earlier, because many insights, such as the artificiality of normative Indian identity in the US/Canada, are things I've been trying to explain and ways of being I've been rebelling against for decades. ...more
Jun 15, 2007 rated it really liked it
The Karma of Brown Folk takes its inspiration from DuBois' The Souls of Black Folk and attempts to speak towards the South Asian American middle-class, where South Asia is meant to represent Bangladesh, India, Nepal, Pakistan, and Sri Lanka (the emphasis is decidedly focused around India, however). It breaks down both the historical relationship between South Asia and the U.S., including legislation, migration, and political action, and it also explores how race, particularly anti-Black racism, ...more
Jun 30, 2020 rated it really liked it
A one of a kind book in terms of content––I don't think I've read another book that analyzes the South Asian role with so much thought and careful research. Until I read this book, I had no idea about the earliest waves of Indian and other South Asian immigration, as well as the history of Asian-black solidarity (as well as the lack of it). The ideas around anti-blackness and the model minority myth are still so resonant today, especially after the protests around George Floyd. His analysis ther ...more
Oct 22, 2020 rated it liked it
This was my second time reading this book. For the life of me, I couldn’t remember what it was about or even that I owned a copy, so I guess the first read didn’t have a big impact on me.

The book is very well researched and covers a lot of ground. For me it was a tough read mainly because the language is so academic. It read like a dissertation. I wanted to love it but I feel like a lot of the message got lost in the academic jargon. For me, anyway.
Sep 07, 2008 rated it it was amazing
My consciousness and sense of identity as a South Asian is still developing, and there is nothing so satisfying and validating as discovering a voice speaks to your experiences and sense of community.

Vijay Prashad is such a voice; he rocks my world.
May 17, 2018 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
This was a heavy dose of history & insightful truths about the Indian American experience. It’s a thoughtful look at the relationships between India, America, and the people who exist on the lines in-between— how those relationships were formed, who had power in them, and how those structures of power are maintained. I loved learning the history! but I wish more was said about showing solidarity with other marginalized communities. ★★★½.
Dec 27, 2019 rated it really liked it
A well-researched book that debunks the model minority myth and the associated trappings.
Sheela Lal
Dec 27, 2013 rated it it was amazing
this completely changed how i look at the diaspora and my own identity. so necessary
May 29, 2020 rated it liked it
What could have been a 5-star rating can be a 3-star at best (which I give primarily for his extensive research into the stories of the forgotten early immigrants from South Asia). Vijay's penchant for history and turning anecdotal reports of Indian diaspora into a hanging narrative notwithstanding, one gets away from reading this book wondering which is greater in the author's mind: His worry about pervasive racism against African-Americans or whether South Asians living relatively obscure live ...more
Sep 08, 2020 rated it liked it
i found it kind of hard to get through, the author was a bit repetitive at times and i wished for some less academic/concise writing. overall, learned a good amount of info and appreciated the arguments.
Mirwais Wakil
May 06, 2018 rated it it was amazing
The direct truth and the simple yet authentic style of expressions used in this book makes it's sentences a Piece of art that aches from within. ...more
May 09, 2018 rated it really liked it
This is a dense, academic read so not a book you can breeze through. That said really well written and researched!
Oct 13, 2018 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: high-caliber
Though it is 20 years old it remains quite vital.
Michelle Charles
Oct 09, 2020 rated it liked it
The history and analysis of the rise of Asian Americans. Some interesting comparisons and contrasts to African American racism especially in the U.S, Quite dry.
Jan 01, 2021 rated it really liked it
I wish I was smart enough to understand this lmfao
Jan 22, 2016 rated it really liked it
Very strong analysis of the social and political aspects of being South Asian in America and what that means for current and next generations. Prashad presents the way aspects of cultural appropriation and political oppression intertwine and how communities of color must work together in solidarity to progress the freedoms and equality of all. This is strongest in the last chapter and also reminds me of a recent keynote speech I heard presented by Jeff Chang. at a CAA event. I must have gotten t ...more
Dec 05, 2015 rated it it was amazing
Prashad packs so much into this book and delivers incredible arguments with language that is both readable and powerful. This book lays a revolutionary groundwork for Asian activists working to tackle anti-Black racism and in solidarity with other people of color.

"D'Souza's racism is premised upon a faulty analysis of Asian success in America. Those attainments are not caused by natural or cultural selection; rather, they are the result of state whereby the U.S. state, through the special-skills
Mar 18, 2008 rated it really liked it
The Karma of Brown Folk announces itself as a response to WEB Dubois’s classic The Souls of Black Folk . If DuBois examined the psychological implications of material conditions that named Black Americans a “problem,” Prashad examines the psychological implications of material conditions that render South Asians as a “solution.” He contends that South Asians are used as a “weapon” against the Black community. The capital wealth and skills of post-1965 immigrants are employed as an implicit in ...more
Jan 15, 2009 rated it did not like it
The book starts off by setting up a problematic framework in the first chapter: American orientalism is qualitatively different from European orientalism. The problem is the book never comes close to proving it. Hence, the rest of the book just devolves into anecdotes and polemics masquerading as analysis. There is even a chapter where personal jealousies are used as an explanation of socio-cultural phenomenon.
Mar 25, 2009 rated it really liked it
Shelves: nonfiction
I've got a big old intellectual crush on Vijay Prashad; I've read (skimmed) both Everybody was Kung Fu Fighting and The Darker Nations, both for my thesis. This book is a response to DuBois's 'Souls of Black Folks', an exploration of the racial identity and historical role of South Asian Americans. Some of his arguments I have trouble following, but as a whole (so far) this book is totally kickass, and incredibly informative. ...more
Mar 16, 2011 added it
A contemporary classic in Asian American Studies. Prashad's probably the biggest "rock star" Asian American studies scholar in the States. The lead essay "How does it feel to be a solution?" is so damn good. It deals with the "model minority" narrative that Asian Americans are encouraged to claim which I instinctively felt was not right but didn't have the thoughts and words to understand why. His analysis made it clearer for me. ...more
Mar 14, 2007 rated it really liked it
I think I liked this book mostly because he provides a vital voice--a progressive, social justice-focused exploration of Desi presence in the U.S.--in an accessible format. I would LOVE to have a reading group discussion on this book with other South Asian lefty/radical/progressives out there. Any takers???
Dec 24, 2007 rated it really liked it
I skimmed this book that Michelle had read for a class. Prashad has a great, radical analysis of the effects of western culture on various aspects of indian culture. one of his essays offers great critiques of quasi-hindu gurus selling themselves to euroamericans (wayne dyer, deepak chopra, etc).

his new book, The Darker Nations looks good and i hope to read it someday.
Harjit Singh Gill
I think this book is one of the few books that really changed things for me. I felt like it allowed me space for self-actualization, and put me in touch with the history of my own people here on this continent.
Nov 09, 2012 rated it liked it
Required reading for my immigrations class. Interesting arguments, slightly outdated in parts (given its publishing before 9/11). Reads very much like a conversation with a college professor (a very angry/passionate one might I add).
Aug 10, 2016 rated it really liked it
DuBois asked "what is it like to be America's problem?" Prashad asks "what is it like to be America's solution?" In a fascinating look at the South Asian model minority, he interrogates the ways that South Asian narratives ignore historic, structural racism while, simultaneously, perpetuating it. ...more
sitting on bookshelf collecting dust
Jun 15, 2007 rated it liked it
I tend to agree w/ his politics.
Feb 20, 2008 rated it it was amazing
one of his more disciplined books. Prashad is possibly my favorite living thinker.
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Vijay Prashad is the executive director of Tricontinental: Institute for Social Research. He is the author or editor of several books, including The Darker Nations: A Biography of the Short-Lived Third World and The Poorer Nations: A Possible History of the Global South. His most recent book is Red Star Over the Third World. He writes regularly for Frontline, The Hindu, Alternet and BirGun.

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Happy Women's History Month! One of the undisputedly good things about modern scholarship is that women’s history is finally getting its due....
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