cover image Asian American Dreams: The Emergence of an American People

Asian American Dreams: The Emergence of an American People

Helen Zia. Farrar Straus Giroux, $26 (256pp) ISBN 978-0-374-14774-7

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.)