Book Card  -  Volume 18  -  Book Review Number 1  -  Sat, Jan 26, 1991 9:44 PM

TITLE: Strangers from a Different Shore
AUTHOR: Ronald Takaki
PUBLISHER: Little, Brown and Co.

For Takaki, a professor of Ethnic Studies at UC Berkeley and grandson of Japanese immigrants, this book began as a search for his own roots. It's a remarkable historical account of all Asian immigrants to this country since the middle of the 19th century - weaving the stories of Chinese, Japanese, Korean, Filipino, Asian Indian, Vietnamese, Cambodian, and Laotian people as they came on their own will to seek fortune or were pushed here fleeing from political pressures and/or economic uncertainty.

It not simply a history text, nor is it another "Roots." In addition to providing the historical accounts, with dates and reasons and what happens, it tells the stories of the individuals. Throughout the book are excerpts from letters, interviews, and especially, reproductions of the poetry of the immigrants - copied from the walls of Japanese WWII internment camps or the walls of holding stations (like Angel Island) for Chinese immigrants.

As with any story of an immigrant population (especially a minority population) many pages are devoted to the racism that greets them the minute they step of the boat or the plane - and never seems to abate. Takaki makes especially clear the economic stimuli behind racism. It makes one very aware of how far we, as a country, have to go to fully accept racial equality, when more than 100 years after the first Chinese immigrants step foot in California, Japanese bashing (for economic reasons) is still a widespread phenomenon.