Asian American Dreams
By Helen Zia
Review by Allison Martin
Asian American Dreams is a dramatic and encyclopedic overview of the political history of Asians in American society. Beginning with the1870's and continuing up to the 1990's, Asian American Dreams provides case studies on many of the major political events of the last century affecting Asian Americans. The depth and scope of topics is remarkable, including studies of the attempted unionization of Filipinos in Alaskan canneries; Afro American and Korean tension in New York, Detroit and Los Angeles; the same sex marriage initiative in Hawaii; and politicalization of South Asian taxi drivers in New York. Additionally, the Japanese American internment during World World II is a frequent refrain throughout the book.
Helan Zia uses these indepth studies to analyse the deeper implications for Asian Americans in the US. This tour de force novelization of history provides a canvass for Helen Zia's astute analysis of the underpinning socialogical and psychological forces affecting the course of Asian American history. Helen Zia's intermingles her personal history into broader context of societial events in each section, engaging the reader but also tying the diverse topics into a whole.
Helen Zia's Asian American Dreams will be an eye opening experience for many Americans, given the dismal state of US history in our schools over the years. Even those who have kept up to date on current affairs will find themselves understanding events and political statements in a new light, with the deeper understanding of the history and the issues rarely covered in the media.
Unfortunately, my enthusiasm for Asian American Dreams is slightly marred by the sadly uninformed discussion of international adoption. It is a great loss to the adoptive families embracing Asian American ideals that this well written and vital book includes a few paragraphs of unsubstantiated, prejudicial statements about mixed race families, a practice which she rightfully condemns when directed toward Asian Americans.
If she ever untakes a second edition of this worthy and enlightening tome, I hope that Helen Zia will rectify this misunderstanding. In addition, her views on the impact of globalization and more recent immigration history would be helpful for understanding the current situation in the US. Given her unique outlook, an examination of the tension over the participation of women in Asian society would have been interesting as well. Lastly, more attention could have been paid to the historical differences between the various Asian countries - as this will have a huge influence on what the term "Asian American" ultimately comes to mean.
Most of these suggestions are a very small part of what is sure to be a remarkable, landmark source for anyone interested in Asian Americans and Asian American affairs. I recommend Asian American Dreams highly to anyone interested in this topic. Its a marvelous work in terms of scope and depth that is unique in its field.
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