The Color of Success tells of the astonishing transformation of Asians in the United States from the "yellow peril" to "model minorities"--peoples distinct from the white majority but lauded as well-assimilated, upwardly mobile, and exemplars of traditional family values--in the middle decades of the twentieth century. As Ellen Wu shows, liberals argued for the acceptance of these immigrant communities into the national fold, charging that the failure of America to live in accordance with its democratic ideals endangered the country's aspirations to world leadership.
Weaving together myriad perspectives, Wu provides an unprecedented view of racial reform and the contradictions of national belonging in the civil rights era. She highlights the contests for power and authority within Japanese and Chinese America alongside the designs of those external to these populations, including government officials, social scientists, journalists, and others. And she demonstrates that the invention of the model minority took place in multiple arenas, such as battles over zoot suiters leaving wartime internment camps, the juvenile delinquency panic of the 1950s, Hawaii statehood, and the African American freedom movement. Together, these illuminate the impact of foreign relations on the domestic racial order and how the nation accepted Asians as legitimate citizens while continuing to perceive them as indelible outsiders.
By charting the emergence of the model minority stereotype, The Color of Success reveals that this far-reaching, politically charged process continues to have profound implications for how Americans understand race, opportunity, and nationhood.
Ellen D. Wu is assistant professor of history at Indiana University, Bloomington.
"The Color of Success embodies exciting developments in Asian American history. Through the lens of racial liberalism and cultural diplomacy, Ellen Wu offers a historically grounded analysis of the Asian American model minority in the contexts of domestic race politics and geopolitics, and she unveils the complexities of wartime and postwar national inclusion."--Eiichiro Azuma, University of Pennsylvania
"Tracing the history of Japanese and Chinese American racialization, this powerful and effective book illuminates the impact of war, international relations, and domestic politics through richly detailed narratives. Ellen Wu shows that the idea of Asians as the model minority began as an academic hypothesis and became a key feature for how race in the United States was conceptualized. This is an important work."--Mary L. Dudziak, author of War Time: An Idea, Its History, Its Consequences
"The Asian American journey provides a crucial angle of vision for a nation whose understanding of its own history tends toward color-blind denials or the white-black binary. Through this lens, Ellen Wu has written an important analysis of mid-twentieth-century struggle and racial liberalism. The Color of Success is an illuminating and deeply researched book--its intellectual ambition reaches to the heart of U.S. political culture."--Matthew Jacobson, Yale University
"With rich archival detail and illustrative accounts, The Color of Success offers a distinct and important contribution to the vexing question of the model minority formation of Asian Americans in the middle of the twentieth century. The book has widespread relevance to comparative race relations, the politics of acculturation, the conspicuous limits of middle-class Americanism, as well as national loyalty and race neutrality."--Nayan Shah, University of Southern California
Table of Contents:
Introduction Imperatives of Asian American Citizenship 1
Part I War and the Assimilating Other 11
Chapter 1 Leave Your Zoot Suits Behind 16
Chapter 2 How American Are We? 43
Chapter 3 Nisei in Uniform 72
Chapter 4 America's Chinese 111
Part II Definitively Not-Black 145
Chapter 5 Success Story, Japanese American Style 150
Chapter 6 Chinatown Offers Us a Lesson 181
Chapter 7 The Melting Pot of the Pacific 210
Epilogue Model Minority/Asian American 242
Archival, Primary, and Unpublished Sources 333