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The master narrative, or central argument, of A Different Mirror is revealed in the subtitle "A History of Multicultural America." As Takaki argues, "the established scholarship has tended to define America too narrowly." His central contention is that the concept of "American" needs to be expanded to include the rich patchwork of ethnicities and racial groups that have been as important to shaping American history as the white men that have dominated the historical literature until the last forty years or so. His methodology is making this argument is to compare the experiences of different peoples in American history. For example, he devotes chapters to enslaved and free African-Americans, Irish immigrants, and Chinese laborers, comparing and contrasting their struggles to carve out a place within American society. Crucial to his argument is the idea that race and ethnicity are social and historical constructions, contingent on a number of specific factors including economics, labor systems, and other things. Takaki argues convincingly that an honest reckoning with our multiethnic past is essential to grappling with a future in which the nation is becoming increasingly diverse.
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