Review: The Making of Asian America: A History by Erika Lee

There is great diversity within Asian America and across Asian American history, but there are also significant similarities and connections. The experiences of previous generations shaped the world that Asian Americans live in today. 

The Making of Asian America

Summary and Thoughts

The Making of Asian America shows how generations of Asian immigrants and their American-born descendants have made and remade Asian American life, from sailors who came on the first trans-Pacific ships in the 1500 to the Japanese Americans incarcerated during World War II. Over the past fifty years, a new Asian America has emerged out of community activism and the arrival of new immigrants and refugees. No longer a “despised minority,” Asian Americans are now held up as America’s “model minorities” in ways that reveal the complicated role that race still plays in the United States.


Erika Lee’s ambitious history book takes an overview of how immigrants of various Asian ancestry have impacted, endured, and formed the U.S. today, taking into account transnational connections and politics as well as the personal stories of a variety of noteworthy individuals. The scope of this book is extraordinary, and I would highly recommend this to anyone looking for a great base for their understanding of Asian American history.

The book itself is accessible and comprehensive, though never colloquial siding strictly with a formal and factual voice. Still, I found it easy to digest and would personally consider this “fun” reading outside of the strictly academic. If I had one criticism, it would actually be that I wouldn’t have minded an extra 50-100 pages in order to add further depth to the issues brought up throughout the book. Again, Lee does a fantastic job at analyzing such diverse groups of people, and the book already clocks at over 600 pages . . . but I’m here for the long run! Additional insight on the Japanese internment camps, Indigenous – Asian relations on Hawaii, and Asian American women’s activism would have been greatly appreciated. No complaints – simply wishes. In any case, definitely pick this book up for AAPI Month!

Photo courtesy of Goodreads

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