A Different Mirror: A History of Multicultural America

Book – Non-fiction. By Ronald Takaki. 2008. 560 pages. A multicultural history of America, in the voices of Native Americans, African Americans, Jews, Irish Americans, Asian Americans, Latinos and others.

  • Time Periods: All US History | Themes: African American, Asian American, Immigration, Labor, Latino, Native American, Pacific Islander, Social Class | Reading Levels: Adult, High School | Resource Types: Books: Non-Fiction

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Winner of an American Book Award, A Different Mirror recounts U.S. history in the voices of Native Americans, African Americans, Jews, Irish Americans, Asian Americans, Latinos and others.

Ronald Takaki turns the Anglocentric historical viewpoint inside out and examines the ultimate question of what it means to be an American.

The book is an excellent companion to A People’s History of the United States.

“Takaki traces the economic and political history of Indians, African Americans, Mexicans, Japanese, Chinese, Irish, and Jewish people in America, with considerable attention given to instances and consequences of racism. The narrative is laced with short quotations, cameos of personal experiences, and excerpts from folk music and literature. Well-known occurrences, such as the Triangle Shirtwaist Factory Fire, the Trail of Tears, the Harlem Renaissance, and the Japanese internment are included. Students may be surprised by some of the revelations, but will recognize a constant thread of rampant racism. The author concludes with a summary of today’s changing economic climate and offers Rodney King’s challenge to all of us to try to get along. Students will find this overview to be an accessible, cogent jumping-off place for American history and political science assignments, plus a guide to the myriad other sources identified in the notes.” —Barbara Hawkins, Oakton High School, Fairfax, VA for the School Library Journal

“Ronald Takaki begins A Different Mirror with the assertion that “[r]ace…has been a social construction that has historically set apart racial minorities from European immigrant groups” (10). He goes on to argue that this construction does not accurately reflect the “rich and complex mosaic” of American diversity. The project of his book, then, is to reflect more authentically the multicultural, multiracial, and multiethnic American character. An exhaustively detailed history, A Different Mirror is an essential primer for anyone interested in American history and its profoundly multicultural nature.

“Takaki begins with the “discovery” of America and proceeds through World War II, devoting chapters of each section to the different experiences of Native Americans, African Americans, Chicanos, Jews, Chinese, and Japanese. Each section reflects carefully on the intertextuality of the separate narratives, and each chapter points out general divergences as well as overlap, coalition, and shared experiences of different groups. For example, he points out that after the Civil War many Southern plantation owners attempted to replace African American laborers with Chinese, whom they believed could teach Black workers to be more industrious. Similarly, he points out that Mexican and Japanese laborers struck together in California in 1903, complicating common perceptions of interracial competition. In fact, the overriding motive of Takaki’s project seems to be to confound stereotypes and historical accounts which stress violence and tension, rather than coalition and exchange. Takaki does not ignore the more conflictive aspects of multiculturalism, but he shows that they are only part of the story of America. Takaki’s work should be required reading for anyone teaching in a field of American Studies.” —Manuel N. Gómez, Vice Chancellor, Student Services, University of California at Irvine for Yale.edu

ISBN: 9780316022361 | Published by Hachette Book Group.

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