World War II was a watershed event for many of America's minorities, but its impact on Chinese Americans has been largely ignored. Utilizing extensive archival research as well as oral histories and letters from over one hundred informants, K. Scott Wong explores how Chinese Americans carved a newly respected and secure place for themselves in American society during the war years.
Long the victims of racial prejudice and discriminatory immigration practices, Chinese Americans struggled to transform their image in the nation's eyes. As Americans racialized the Japanese enemy abroad and interned Japanese Americans at home, Chinese citizens sought to distinguish themselves by venturing beyond the confines of Chinatown to join the military and various defense industries in record numbers. Wong offers the first in-depth account of Chinese Americans in the American military, tracing the history of the 14th Air Service Group, a segregated unit comprising over 1,200 men, and examining how their war service contributed to their social mobility and the shaping of their ethnic identity.
Americans First pays tribute to a generation of young men and women who, torn between loyalties to their parents' traditions and their growing identification with America and tormented by the pervasive racism of wartime America, served their country with patriotism and courage. Consciously developing their image as a "model minority," often at the expense of the Japanese and Japanese Americans, Chinese Americans created the pervasive image of Asian Americans that still resonates today.
>K. Scott Wong paints a moving but realistic picture of Chinese American men and women demonstrating their worth in war industries and in the armed services. He shows how their World War II experiences empowered them to seek a full and equal status in a post-war America.
Americans First is an outstanding synthesis of firsthand accounts and nuanced historical analysis. At once soulful and impeccably researched, we can now recognize a generation of Americans missing from our history.
An important and insightful account of Chinese immigrants and Chinese Americans during World War II. Rich in detail, Americans First gives the reader the human dimension of Chinese American lives during the war and its lasting impact.
Based on archival research, oral histories, and a deep understanding of the influential forces of race, culture, and politics in national identity formation, Americans First breaks new ground by shifting our focus from Chinese immigration and exclusion in the nineteenth century to the beginnings of Chinese American inclusion during World War II.
An important addition to the ethnic history of World War II and a must for all serious students of Asian American history.
This is a very important book by a member of a new generation of Chinese American historians. It should be mandatory reading for anyone wishing to understand the dramatic advance of this group from Chinese to American and indeed the experience of most ethnic groups during the world's most terrible military conflict.
Americans First breaks new ground by shifting our focus to the experiences of Chinese Americans in the Second World War. Based on archival research, oral histories, personal accounts, and the author's knowledge of Chinese history, Asian American history, and race politics in U.S. history, the book clearly shows how the war helped to advance the socioeconomic and political status of Chinese Americans...Americans First is a path-breaking, in-depth study on a neglected aspect of Asian American and U.S. history--the experiences, perceptions, and perspectives of Chinese Americans in the Second World War.
- 272 pages
- 5-1/2 x 8-1/4 inches
- Harvard University Press
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