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A Different Mirror: A History of…

A Different Mirror: A History of Multicultural America

by Ronald Takaki

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Good primer but would need supplemental resources. This book looks at the history of the United States as told by people who came to the country in search for a better life. It is not strictly about immigrating to the US in itself, but rather why and how they came here and what challenges, successes, prejudices, etc. they encountered while trying to make their way on this land.
It is quite dense (in a good way) in the text of the groups that came (or how they adapted/coped in the case of Native Americans). There is a great deal of ground to cover and obviously it's not possible to do all of them justice. But there is probably a great deal to learn. I knew about the Chinese men who came and their struggles with being unable to bring their wives (in contrast to many of the Chinese women who were brought over and subjected to sexual slavery) but I did not know many of the stories like the Japanese in Hawaii as one example. 
In many ways the book is great in giving us snapshots of various groups, providing historical context that is likely just not taught unless you take a special class or happen to read about it in a book. But as others point out sometimes it can get formulaic (group moves to the United States, is the target of discrimination and struggles/adapts). Which is rather horrible in itself repeating over and over again. The framing device in using Shakespeare's 'The Tempest' and Caliban in particular is quite annoying (since I haven't read this play or watched any adaptation of it I kept wondering why Takaki kept mentioning Caliban/'The Tempest').
But if you liked Howard Zinn's 'A People's History Of The United States' you might like this. It's actually been many MANY years since I've read Zinn's book but as I read I couldn't help but think of that text. Takaki's book would make a good compliment but as mentioned it's a rather thick book.
Some other recommended readings to go along with this (perhaps to expand) would include: 'The Warmth of Other Suns: The Epic Story of America's Great Migration', 'The New Jim Crow: Mass Incarceration in the Age of Colorblindness', 'The Making of Asian America', and 'Everything You Wanted to Know About Indians But Were Afraid to Ask'. There are probably tons more really great books but those are some I can think of off the cuff. That said, this is a book that you can probably read on its own but you might get more out of it if you have other sources to compliment your reading. ( )
  acciolibros | Feb 11, 2018 |
I found this book a profoundly moving, profoundly sobering look at the history of our country. It is also a book I couldn't recommend more enthusiastically. In my opinion it is a "must read." I first came across the title on a book table set up by two women who came to NCF to talk about Reba Place's experience with racial reconciliation. I carried the title around with me for a year or two and finally checked it out at the public library. I don't know if I've ever been impacted so strongly by a book before. Takaki, a third-generation American (as is my mother) covers American history from the perspective of some of the various minorities that have made America their home, and one that is indigenous. He covers African Americans, Irish Americans, Mexican Americans, Chinese Americans, Native Americans, Japanese Americans, and Jewish Americans from the beginnings of our country to the early 1990s. He evenhandedly paints a picture of the reality of American experience for these different groups. He describes the difficulties they had both on a societal level and on an official government policy level. For those who shudder at the thought of reading through a dry history, never fear. This book is most readable. In fact it is downright engaging. Even eloquent. It is heart-changing. Read it.
(Carolyn Vance)
  NCFChampaign | Dec 4, 2017 |
Such an informative book! ( )
  ElOsoBlanco | Jul 15, 2013 |
Takaki does an absolutely phenomenal job in exploring the history of multicultural America highlighting the often ignored and left out parts of history that showcase just how badly the "white european" treated anyone else. It's a great introduction to real American history not the whitewashed versions heard in grade school. It covers nearly every "race" and ethnicity except the Arabs which is why I can only give it 4 stars. By leaving out Arabs it's left out the immigrants from an entire region of the earth. Otherwise the book covers pretty much everyone. Takaki's writing style is fluid and easy to follow making it easy to read an understand yet contains enough depth that it stimulates thought and discussion. ( )
  CassandraStrand | Jul 5, 2011 |
A look at all of the different cultures of America.
  austinwood | Sep 19, 2009 |
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I had flown from San Francisco to Norfolk and was riding in a taxi to my hotel to attend a conference on multiculturalism.
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A dramatic new retelling of our nation's past by today's preeminent multiculturalism scholar, Ronald Takaki, this book examines America's history in "a different mirror"--The perspective of the minority peoples themselves. Beginning with the colonization of the "New World" and ending with the Los Angeles riots of 1992, this book recounts the history of America in the voices of the non-Anglo peoples of the United States--Native Americans, African Americans, Jews, Irish Americans, Asian Americans, Latinos, and others--groups who helped create this country's rich mosaic culture. In this significant work of scholarship, Professor Takaki grapples with the raw truth of American history and examines the ultimate question of what it means to be an American.… (more)

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