Is there an "American" culture or are our supposed common experiences and assumptions merely a social construct largely created by a dominant white European elite? Okihiro, professor of international and public affairs and director of the Center for the Study of Ethnicity and Race at Columbia University, examines traditional fissures in American life from an Asian American perspective. Okihiro provocatively suggests that our view of nineteenth-century transcontinental expansion from East to West ignores the role of Asian immigrants moving in the opposite direction. Similarly, his portrait of the 1993 Columbian Exposition suggests it extolled the advance of white civilization, viewed African civilization as barbaric, and virtually ignored the role of East Asian civilizations in forming American "character." Okihiro paints with a broad brush and probably draws unwarranted conclusions from scanty and disputable data. Still, his willingness to think "out of the box" offers an original perspective upon how and why we define ourselves. Jay FreemanCopyright © American Library Association. All rights reserved
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] should take its place . . . as a standard reference. Deftly referencing The Wonderful Wizard of Oz, Chicago's 1893 World's Columbian Exposition, Madame Butterfly (Puccini's opera and the modern play,) his own childhood experiences . . . and other richly varied illustrations, Okihiro offers important insights. . . . A must read."--Choice
"Okihiro is a masterly stylist, able to interweave theoretical insight and historical argument in language that is at once sophisticated and colloquial. Individually these essays are fully complete, but read consecutively they assume an added resonance and depth. In this regard, Common Ground
is in a class all its own."--Louise M. Newman, Journal of American History