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Yellow: Race in America Beyond Black and White Paperback – March 25, 2003


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Product Details

  • Paperback: 416 pages
  • Publisher: Basic Books; Reprint edition (March 25, 2003)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 046500640X
  • ISBN-13: 978-0465006403
  • Product Dimensions: 8 x 5.3 x 1.1 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 15.2 ounces
  • Average Customer Review: 3.3 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (22 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #95,807 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews

Amazon.com Review

Yellow by Frank H. Wu is an eclectic, incisive investigation-cum-meditation that, though focusing on Asian Americans, recasts the United States' ongoing debate about racial identity in all forms. Wu suggests that the widespread stereotyping of Asian Americans, while "superficially positive," is inherently damaging. Mixing personal anecdotes, current events, academic studies, and court cases, Wu not only debunks the myth of a "model minority" but also makes discomfiting observations about attitudes toward affirmative action, what he calls "rational" discrimination, mixed marriages, racial profiling, and the "false divisions" of integration versus pluralism and assimilation versus multiculturalism. Though its conclusions are unremarkable, Yellow is thought provoking. The book's strength--besides its clarity and thoughtfulness--is a lack of tendentiousness. Wu prefers to suggest, not posit; muse, not shout; and ask questions, not necessarily answer them. --H. O'Billovitch --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

From Publishers Weekly

Beginning with a recap of his childhood bewilderment with the paltry selection of appealing Asian characters in 1970s American pop culture, Frank H. Wu, associate professor at the Howard University School of Law, describes the alienation experienced by Asian-Americans in the 20th-century in Yellow: Race in America Beyond Black and White. An activist and journalist (the Washington Post, the Nation, the L.A. Times, etc.), Wu discusses key moments and phenomena in Asian-American history: the WWII internment camps, the 1992 L.A. riots, the "model minority myth," the virulent anti-Asian sentiment in the U.S. during the 1980s' recession (exemplified by the murder of a Chinese American engineer by two white auto workers, fined $3,780 for the crime) and periodic fads involving "Asian-ness" in American media. His sobering, astute, compelling investigation locates the particulars of Asian-American experience with racism in this country's spectrum of ethnic and cultural prejudice.

Copyright 2001 Cahners Business Information, Inc.

--This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

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Customer Reviews

3.3 out of 5 stars

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

104 of 118 people found the following review helpful By Philip Nash on January 23, 2002
Format: Hardcover
I have read most of Frank Wu's popular columns and legal articles over the years, so I thought I knew what to expect when I opened the covers of his new book, "Yellow."
Instead of the lawyer, raconteur, social critic, and historian I had thought I knew, however, I met a philosopher poet on par with an Emerson or Thoreau. Weaving back and forth between legal decisions, Shakespearean dramas, SAT scores, and recollections from his childhood, he has produced a masterwork that will shape discussions of race for years to come.
Right from the first chapter, Professor Wu lays out the dilemma of being Asian in America in terms that are spare but evocative: "I remain not only a stranger in a familiar land, but also a sojourner through my own life....I alternate between being conspicuous and vanishing, being stared at or looked through. Although the conditions may seem contradictory, they have in common the loss of control. I am who others perceive me to be rather than how I perceive myself to be."
Not content to be an idle observer or a pawn in someone else's social drama, however, he draws on a lifetime of involvement in the great issues of our times to write thought-provoking and well-researched analyses of affirmative action, racial profiling, immigration restrictions, anti-Asian violence, interracial marriage, and much more. The beauty of Wu's writing, like Stephen Jay Gould's celebrated "This View of Life" column in Natural History magazine, is that a person who is at once a leader in his field and a person with a strong point of view can take the time to explain how he got to his position by bringing in history, statistics, biography, current events, and popular culture.
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26 of 29 people found the following review helpful By Stephen Kaczmarek on March 23, 2006
Format: Paperback
I admit a love-hate relationship with books about Asian-American issues. Too often, they recycle the same points - the Yellow Peril, the Japanese-American internment, the Vincent Chin murder, the "model minority" myth, the L.A. riots - and, too often, they offer much discussion but little solution. Let's face it: we live in a nation founded by displaced Europeans and driven primarily by greed and marketplace. It's unlikely that anyone who doesn't fit easily into the mainstream can or will succeed fully, no matter having a claim to moral high ground.

As a group, Asian Americans have done better than some others, but not without significant barriers, and in a country where the fire of national debate on black and white issues is stoked routinely by self-serving pundits, politicians, and pop stars, the tribulations of Asian Americans are considered trivial. The irony, of course, is that worldwide, Asians are the majority, and despite NASA's assertion on the Voyager probe that Earth men look like the da Vinci drawing, the reality is that most men look like Wu. Or me, half-Asian though I am.

So, while there is a place for books like Wu's, I'm just not sure where it is. Wu is a good writer, even if many of his points are the same ones I've heard since entering college in 1986. His premise that Asian Americans historically and routinely face discrimination, even violence, is an important and all too real one. But I don't know who he's writing to. Is it other Asian Americans? Unless we're in denial or brain dead, we already know the score. Is it non-Asian Americans? Oddly enough, there's a similar problem. Those people thoughtful enough to care have probably heard the issues before. Those who aren't don't want to.
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44 of 53 people found the following review helpful By A Customer on June 3, 2003
Format: Paperback
If you have the reasonable expectation that the author of any book on race is unlikely to share all your views, then I'd recommend that you read this book. I like this book because it provides one viewpoint that is unique in many ways and is therefore a good addition to any person's collection of thoughts on race relations (whether you agree with Wu or not). By the way, Wu's opinions are his own, as he points out himself, and do not represent THE "Asian" viewpoint (there's no such thing). The following arguments are particularly interesting:
1. Wu argues that Asian-Americans ought to support affirmative action for underrepresented minority groups even if they themselves are not included, saying that this will put the needs of the nation at large ahead of self-centered gain. (Contrast this with the writings of K. Anthony Appiah, Dinesh D'Souza and Shelby Steele, for example, for 4 incredibly disparate views of affirmative action by 4 people of color).
2. Wu also presents a case against racial profiling in spite of the fact that he thinks it is sometimes both rational and non-racist (!)
3. Wu dissects the question "Where are you really from?" and explains how it reflects the "perpetual foreigner" stereotype of people of Asian descent.
Overall, this book was a thought-provoking, sometimes troubling, always interesting read.
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11 of 13 people found the following review helpful By V. K. Lin on September 29, 2006
Format: Paperback
My only claim to understanding Asian-American racism in the US is being a victim of it. I am no scholastic expert in the field, not even a closet scholar. My father immigrated from Taiwan. My mother suffered the indignity of the internment camps during WWII. But I didn't learn about my ethnicity, or racism, from them. Born in the US, I learned as many of my generation did- through experience. So from this perspective, Professor Wu has done a magnificent job of accomplishing two great tasks in a single, readable book: he has outlined a superb historical account of Asian-Americans in America with respect to racism, and effectively defined and explained the complex manifestation and quandaries of racial issues for Asian-Americans.

There is, of course, an accounting of the most egregious cases of racial bias and outright bigotry in the history of our country. But even more importantly, Professor Wu effectively summarizes the history of Asians and Asian-Americans in the US to help explain how the model minority stereotype is a two-edged sword that actually in many ways exacerbates the problem and in some ways enables the problem to proliferate, particularly by playing such a stereotype off against the stereotype of Afro-Americans. Make no mistake, Professor Wu strongly espouses coalitions among not only Asian-Americans, not only all minorities, but all peoples. It is, he argues, the only way to bring resolution. But the conundrum of racism, as he effectively describes it, is truly one of color and the perception of color. Being white in America is perceived by many as the ideal, the epitome.

For example, when the issue of my ethnicity came up in my office, recently, one of my staff, attempting to be gracious, remarked: "I never noticed you weren't white.
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