Review by Publisher's Weekly Review
Through this collection of essays, oral histories and primary source material, Takaki challenges what he describes as "the master narrative of American history, the ethnocentric story told from the perspective of the English colonists and their descendants" by illuminating the contributions that America's numerous ethnic groups have made to the nation's history. One of the country's premier multiculturalist scholars, Takaki (A Different Mirror: A History of Multicultural America) eschews the angry, jargon-ridden ideological polemics that make up the usual artillery of the curriculum wars, opting instead to let America's diverse peoples speak for themselves in excerpts that are both informative and moving. While a few pieces are by familiar figures such as Frederick Douglass and Black Elk, most are by "ordinary" peopleAfrican, Latino, Native American, Irish, Chinese, Jewish, Japanese, Polish, Mexican, Italian, Caribbean, Indian, Puerto Rican, Koreanwho recount their struggles and aspirations eloquently and with dignity. Takaki introduces themes throughout, such as how immigrant groups fought to keep America true to its own promises of justice and equality. For example, an Irish American who became a radical labor activist recalls a teacher who "drilled us so thoroughly in... the Bill of Rights, that I have been defending it ever since." Rather than balkanize America, scholarship of this caliber serves to bring Americans together in a greater appreciation of the diverse origins of our common heritage. Editor, Jennifer Josephy; agent, Rick Balkin. (Sept.) (c) Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved
(c) Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved
Review by Kirkus Book Review
Takaki (Ethnic Studies/Univ. of Calif., Berkeley) continues his popular history of multicultural America, earlier presented so effectively in A Different Mirror (1996) and Strangers from a Distant Shore (1990). Takaki has always written history from ``the bottom up,'' focusing more on the actions and words of everyday people, how they construct their lives within given historical contexts, rather than on grand events and great personages. This work is no exception, but rather than merely quoting such people within his historical narrative, as in the past, here he lets such people speak for themselves. Takaki is content to present a brief introduction and conclusion and succinct summations of the historical context of the various pieces. He has produced a rich and moving reader that is a fascinating testimony to the true multicultural nature of our history. The pieces are presented more or less in chronological order, beginning with Olaudah Equiano's account of his passage to America as a slave and ending with a contemporary African-American's experience with affirmative action. In between, we hear the ``voices,'' as the author puts it, of Native Americans, Chinese, Irish, and Polish immigrants, Puerto Ricans and Koreans, and so many more. Most of these voices are unknown and most are from obscure sources. Some are wrenching in their sadness and yearning (Black Elk's Boyhood Memories''), some are sweet and funny (advice to the lovelorn from a turn-of-the-century Jewish-American newspaper). In places we read of ethnic and racial enmity and competition, in others of trust and cooperation. Though each selection is unique, they all in their own way portray people trying to make sense of America, the obstacles and opportunities this country presents to them, where and how they might fit in. It's Takaki's hope that in sharing our voices, our stories, we might create ``a community of a larger memory,'' a community of diversity and inclusion. In putting together this work, he has contributed much to that effort.
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