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A Different Mirror: A History of Multicultural America

4.4 out of 5 stars 171 customer reviews
ISBN-13: 978-0316831116
ISBN-10: 0316831115
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Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

This vibrant ethnographic history of America was on PW 's "best books of 1993" list.
Copyright 1994 Reed Business Information, Inc.

From School Library Journal

YA-Takaki traces the economic and political history of Indians, African Americans, Mexicans, Japanese, Chinese, Irish, and Jewish people in America, with considerable attention given to instances and consequences of racism. The narrative is laced with short quotations, cameos of personal experiences, and excerpts from folk music and literature. Well-known occurrences, such as the Triangle Shirtwaist Factory Fire, the Trail of Tears, the Harlem Renaissance, and the Japanese internment are included. Students may be surprised by some of the revelations, but will recognize a constant thread of rampant racism. The author concludes with a summary of today's changing economic climate and offers Rodney King's challenge to all of us to try to get along. Students will find this overview to be an accessible, cogent jumping-off place for American history and political science assignments, plus a guide to the myriad other sources identified in the notes.
Barbara Hawkins, Oakton High School, Fairfax, VA
Copyright 1994 Reed Business Information, Inc. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

Product Details

  • Paperback: 508 pages
  • Publisher: Back Bay Books (December 20, 1993)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0316831115
  • ISBN-13: 978-0316831116
  • Product Dimensions: 5.5 x 1.8 x 8.2 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.1 pounds
  • Average Customer Review: 4.4 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (171 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #493,590 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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More About the Author

My grandfather emigrated from Japan to work on the cane fields of Hawaii in 1886, and my mother was born on the Hawi Plantation. As a teenager growing up on Oahu, I was not academically inclined but was actually a surfer. During my senior year, I took a religion course taught by Dr. Shunji Nishi, a Japanese American with a Ph.D. I remember going home and asking my mother, who only had an eighth-grade education: "Mom, what's a Ph.D.?" She answered: "I don't know but he must be very smart." Dr. Nishi became a role model for me, and he arranged for me to attend the College of Wooster. There my fellow white students asked me questions like: "How long have you been in this county? Where did you learn to speak English?" They did not see me as a fellow American. I did not look white or European in ancestry. As a scholar, I have been seeking to write a more inclusive and hence more accurate history of Americans, Chicanos, Native Americans as well as certain European immigrant groups like the Irish and Jews. My scholarship seeks not to separate our diverse groups but to show how our experiences were different but they were not disparate. Multicultural history, as I write and present it, leads not to what Schlesinger calls the "disuniting of America" but rather to the re-uniting of America.

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

Format: Paperback
This is an excellent multi-cultural account of American history. Takaki focuses on the perspectives of many different cultural groups, providing several interesting, unique and sometimes sobering stories of America's history. After reading this book, you may find yourself feeling cheated by your grade school history lessons. This work is fair, honest, and *VERY* well documented, with endnote references on almost every page.
I don't believe Takaki has a score to settle with this book. Nor do I believe he is racist or *overly* slanted, but I can see how some might feel that way. His focus on nontraditional perspectives seems to me an effort to balance the scale a bit by emphasizing the viewpoints, stories and facts that have been under-emphasized in the past. Perspectives include those of the Irish, Japanese, blacks, Native Americans, and others as various times throughout American history. To me, Takaki does a very good job of putting the reader in the mindset of the people at a certain place and time.
Stories in this book are not sugar-coated, which may at times be unsettling, but the facts and research that back the stories up are indisputable. Takaki uses many direct quotes and indirect references to underscore his points. His accounts are credible, believable and educational. This book should be required reading in all high schools, but should not be considered a replacement for traditional American history texts. It is more a book about cultural perspectives in history than about historical facts. As an example, Takaki will devote many pages to very specific events in history to catch a specific cultural perspective, while completely glazing over many larger and arguably more historically significant timeframes.
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Format: Paperback
I was introduced to Takaki as an undergrad in Louisiana, reintroduced as a gaduate in New York, and again as a Graduate Assistant in Ohio. I don't believe my instructors in three states could all be wrong. Takaki does what many American writers seem to be wary of doing: putting the emphasis where it belongs. The multicultural history of this country has been based on little more than exploitation. It doesn't necessarity matter who it was being done to, because it had similar results with nearly each minority group. One thing I have to teach my conservative, mid-Western students is to move beyond the "white guilt" many Americans seem to suffer from in order to see that the oppression minorities were victim to was a systematic process based on totalitarian ideals, and not some inherent white evil. I believe by presenting the information the way Takaki has, he allows readers to read a multifaceted version of American history (not the myopic, one dimensional history taught in American schools) that effectively places different groups within a specific time and place in history. If you are not afraid to read some truth about America (without the artificiality of "Pomp and Circumstance"), this is for you. This book does not make America out to be the melting pot it wishes it were. I will teach this book in my future classes.
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Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
Publishers Weekly called this, "a brilliant revisionist history of America that is likely to become a classic of multicultural studies." I would totally agree if they would have only added the word "biased" to their list of adjectives. This book has a strong anti-Anglo bias from cover to cover. As a history text it offers an extremely limited scope. It is an historical account of how the racist Anglos persecuted all non-Anglos through American history.
That doesn't mean it shouldn't be read. I never give out ***** without reason.
For non-Anglos this book should be read for the comfort it offers. At last someone has found the courage to tell the story of those who came from the margins of society. I am white. My heritage traces predominantly from Native American (Cherokee) and Irish indentured servitude stock. The book was informative concerning my heritage.
For Anglos this book should be read to help remove cultural blinders. Such a book can be threatening, but it has the potential to expand our universes way beyond the scope of monocultural prejudice. Books such as this help us to better understand where our brothers and sisters of other cultures are coming from.
FOR EVERYONE, this book should be read to understand the past, NOT keep alive prejudice for another generation. My prayer is that a day will come when we have the ability to scale the walls of blindness and forgive the offenses of the past. I would like to see a new world when we are neither ruled by bigotry or guilt.
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Format: Paperback
The author's writing is excellent, well researched and documented. It starts out with a "spring board" analogy from Shakespeare, showing how we can all be prone to prejudgement of someone whom we don't understand. From this we get the story of many of America's ethnic minorities, showing what a many portions of each ethnic group experienced.

I was assigned this book for a diverstiy class that I had to take in college. Too often authors will try and make whites out to be the devil. Takaki doesn't. If one understands this books to be an incomplete history (the history of minorities), then they can understand that it compliments dead-white dude's history well. Students of history need to make sure they are versed in both.

The books only limit is that he cannot show the diversity within certain ethnic groups. For example, not all members of a certain ethnic group bore the same experiences. Although limited in that sense, it would take volumes of books to tell the story of each ethnic group in each region. So I don't hold that against him. Plus -- I would like it if he would focus a little more on the friendships that occur between ethnic groups. Those examples which make us proud of our past and give us hope for the future.
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