A sweeping yet intimate history of the diverse individuals who, together, make up America. Ronald Takaki uses letters, diaries & oral histories to share their stories. Workers, immigrants, shopkeepers, women, children & others, their lives often separated by ethnic borders, speak side by side as Takaki frames their voices with his own text.
Through this collection of essays, oral histories and primary source material, Takaki challenges what he describes as "the master narrative of American history, the ethnocentric story told from the perspective of the English colonists and their descendants" by illuminating the contributions that America's numerous ethnic groups have made to the nation's history. One of the country's premier multiculturalist scholars, Takaki (A Different Mirror: A History of Multicultural America) eschews the angry, jargon-ridden ideological polemics that make up the usual artillery of the curriculum wars, opting instead to let America's diverse peoples speak for themselves in excerpts that are both informative and moving. While a few pieces are by familiar figures such as Frederick Douglass and Black Elk, most are by 'ordinary' people -- African, Latino, Native American, Irish, Chinese, Jewish, Japanese, Polish, Mexican, Italian, Caribbean, Indian, Puerto Rican, Korean -- who recount their struggles and aspirations eloquently and with dignity. Takaki introduces themes throughout, such as how immigrant groups fought to keep America true to its own promises of justice and equality. For example, an Irish-American who became a radical labor activist recalls a teacher who 'drilled us so thoroughly in... the Bill of Rights, that I have been defending it ever since.' Rather than balkanize America, scholarship of this caliber serves to bring Americans together in a greater appreciation of the diverse origins of our common heritage.