Download PDF Print Page Citation Share Link

Last Reviewed on June 19, 2019, by eNotes Editorial. Word Count: 279

Strangers from a Different Shore: A History of Asian Americans (published in 1990), comprises testimonies and true stories surrounding the history of Asian Americans. It is written by Hawaiian academic Ronald Takaki, who taught history at UCLA and UC Berkeley. In the book's opening pages, he explains:

Illustration of PDF document

Download Strangers from a Different Shore Study Guide

Subscribe Now

Indeed, the story of Asian Americans is woven into the history of America itself. The Chinese began coming here during the 1849 California gold rush, and my Japanese grandfather sailed across the Pacific in 1886, before the arrival of most Jewish, Italian, Hungarian, and Polish immigrants. (4)

In this way, Takaki situates his study among wider immigration patterns. He discusses how and why Japanese, Filipino, Chinese, and Asian Indian immigrants chose to come to the U.S. and claims that the American dream is often unattainable for them. Takaki claims that Asians were treated no better than slaves after immigrating. He cites as historical evidence an 1890 memorandum from the Honolulu mercantile house, the Davies Company, acknowledging an order for:



Japanese laborers


a Chinaman (23)

Takaki uses this and other historical evidence to support his contention that Asian laborers were de facto slaves. In explaining how immigrant groups were discriminated against as members of the workforce, he explains:

....manager George F. Renton advised his fellow planters to employ as many different nationalities as possible on each plantation in order to 'offset' the power of any one nationality of workers. (26)

Here, Takaki explains how shrewdly and unscrupulously American businesses discouraged immigrant solidarity. Overall, Takaki's nearly 700-page tome can rightly be treated as a resounding and well-researched work of nonfiction. It's preponderance of primary sources, coupled with Takaki's personal experience, make for a dense and compelling read.

Unlock This Study Guide Now

Start your 48-hour free trial and unlock all the summaries, Q&A, and analyses you need to get better grades now.

  • 30,000+ book summaries
  • 20% study tools discount
  • Ad-free content
  • PDF downloads
  • 300,000+ answers
  • 5-star customer support
Start your 48-hour free trial