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Asian American Dreams: The Emergence of an American People Paperback – May 15, 2001


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Product Details

  • Paperback: 368 pages
  • Publisher: Farrar, Straus and Giroux; 1st edition (May 15, 2001)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0374527369
  • ISBN-13: 978-0374527365
  • Product Dimensions: 8.2 x 5.5 x 1 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 12 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.6 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (32 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #508,461 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

While growing up in New Jersey in the 1950s and '60s, Zia was provided with plenty of American history by her teachers, while her father inundated her with stories of China's past. Yet she was left wondering about people like herself, Asian Americans, who seemed to be "MIH--Missing in History." In this ambitious and richly detailed account of the formation of the Asian-American community--which extends from the first major wave of immigration to Gold Mountain" (as the Chinese dubbed America during the gold rush) to the recent influx of Southeast Asians, who since 1975 have nearly doubled the Asian-American population--Zia fills those absences, while examining the complex origins of the events she relates. The result is a vivid personal and national history, in which Zia guides us through a range of recent flash points that have galvanized the Asian-American community. Among them are the brutal, racially motivated murder of Vincent Chin in Detroit in 1982; the devastating riots in Los Angeles in 1992, where almost half of the $1 billion in damages to the city were sustained by Korean-American shop owners; and the embattled South Asian New York City cab drivers who, in May of 1998, banded together with the New York Taxi Workers alliance and pulled off a citywide strike. The recent boom in the Asian-American population (from half a million in the 1950s to 7.3 million in 1990), coupled with Zia's fresh perspective, makes it unlikely that their stories will go missing again. (Mar.)
Copyright 2000 Reed Business Information, Inc. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

From Library Journal

Asian Americans have only recently emerged as a cohesive, self-identified racial group. Now, award-winning Asian American journalist Zia traces the changing politics and cultures of this significant but disjointed group of people by examining the incidents that helped galvanize them. Drawing on both family stories and public events (everything from the Vincent Chin affair to the boycott of Korean American--owned stores in Brooklyn) Zia surveys the history of Asian Americans, the rapid development of their new political force, and the unique issues they face. This well-written book is an important addition to the growing field of Asian American studies. Recommended for public and academic libraries.
-Mee-Len Hom, Hunter Coll. Lib., New York
Copyright 2000 Reed Business Information, Inc. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

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Customer Reviews

This book was very well written and enjoyable.
Christine M. Slattery
I highly recommend this book for everyone with an interest in "American" culture, society and racial/ethnic dialogue.
V. Sasaki
Most importantly, I found the book and her message, that nothing is impossible, to be quite optimistic.
Carol M. Wan

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

39 of 41 people found the following review helpful By nunchi on November 20, 2002
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
I remember as a young child, other kids would ask me, "Where are you from?" Even though I was a native U.S. citizen, I would answer "Korea" without even thinking about it. Their response would be a blank stare and a "Where?" They all knew China, and even Japan, but rarely Korea. I grew up thinking that I was from a place that no one knew existed. Now when people ask me, "Where are you from?" I answer "Los Angeles," and I receive the response, "You know what I mean. Really, where are you from?" This question has plagued me throughout my life. People assume I cannot simply be an American - I must be a foreigner.
What Helen Zia has done is taken this universal experience among Asian Americans and transformed it into a quest to learn what it means to be Asian and American. She examines pivotal points in Asian American history and acknowledges racism, but also examines what Asian Americans must do as a whole to become seen as "American" and not as a "gook" or a "chink." As a college student who's done a little bit of research on Asian Americans, it enlightened me on my responsibilites to make my voice heard and also educated me on the history of the Asian American Civil Rights Movement - something that didn't even exist 60 years ago.
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31 of 33 people found the following review helpful By Sunny Kwan on June 9, 2001
Format: Paperback
Asian American Dreams is really a touching book. It is touching not because it is a fiction with many moving plots and the hero or heroin possesses moving characteristics --- strictly speaking it is not a fiction --- but because it provides a description, a statement, a confession from the perspective of an Asian American woman writer who exposes so unelaborated, so frankly, so honestly, her innocent feelings about her being as an Asian American.
Helen Zia, the daughter of Chinese immigrants, born in New Jersey, grew up in the fifties when there were only 150, 000 Chinese Americans in the entire country. As an award-winning journalist who lives in the San Francisco Bay Area, Zia has covered Asian American communities and social and political movements for more than twenty years.
Different from the other minorities groups, she assumed what Chinese Americans wished to be was not how to preserve their cultural identity, instead, they tried to explore by what they could be made a fully American. However, she was obviously dissatisfied with she was forever conceived as an “alien” even she was born in New Jersey.
“There is a drill,” she wrote, “ that nearly all Asians in America have experienced more times than they can count. Total strangers will interrupt with the absurdly existential question ‘What are you?’ Or the equally common inquiry ‘Where are your from?’ Their queries are generally well intentioned, made in the same detached manner that you might use to inquire about a pooch’s breed.”
....
She clearly pointed out a situation that Asian Americans, particularly Chinese Americans, had been facing in the American setting.
Read more ›
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16 of 16 people found the following review helpful By V. Sasaki on April 12, 2000
Format: Hardcover
We had the good fortune to have Ms. Zia come speak in our community as part of her tour for this book. I was particularly struck at this event by her realistic assessment of where Asian America comes from, has been, and is going. This vision is reflected in this wonderful book. "Asian American Dreams" looks at both the diversity within Asian America, and at the problematic place of Asians and Asian Americans in our bipolar (typically Black/White) racial dialogue. Ms. Zia begins each chapter with an anecdotal essay which allows us to glimpse her good humor, and for those of us raised outside of traditional Asian America, to see similarities with our own experiences that we hadn't thought to look for in the past. I highly recommend this book for everyone with an interest in "American" culture, society and racial/ethnic dialogue.
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16 of 17 people found the following review helpful By A Customer on March 7, 2000
Format: Hardcover
I've read a lot of books from Asian American studies about the history and experience of Asians in this country, and this book by far does the best job of relating both our recent history and how it affects us as a distinct minority group within the US. I think it will go a long way to helping the majority "get it" about Asian Americans--finally!
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14 of 15 people found the following review helpful By A Customer on March 29, 2000
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
Helen Zia's book is a must read for all Americans -- Asian or non-Asian. What I like most about the book is simply how wonderfully it is written. It is a pure joy to read. Her account of the Vincent Chin murder and the aftermath is particularly well done; it made me feel like I was there. "Asian American Dreams" is the foremost chronicle of the Asian American scene today, and Ms. Zia is the James Baldwin/Cornell West of Asian American writers.
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9 of 10 people found the following review helpful By A Customer on March 10, 2000
Format: Hardcover
I am a third generation Asian American, and I never knew about any of this stuff. Reading this book gave me new insights into what my parents went through and why they are the way they are, and it also made me appreciate my grandparents a lot more and why they had to work so hard.
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6 of 6 people found the following review helpful By Garrett Masuda on November 23, 2000
Format: Hardcover
A good book for those wishing to learn more about Asian American history. After reading this book, I felt like I just finished taking a crash course on Asian American civil rights. She raises important questions in the reader's mind about what it means to be "American". What I particularly liked was her coverage of various Asian nationalities; not just focusing on one or two. Being Asian-American myself, I can definitely relate to her message and I recommend this book to all my Asian brothers and sisters, but this is also a book that the rest of America so desparately needs to read.
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