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The Color of Success:
Asian Americans and the Origins of the Model Minority
Ellen D. Wu

Winner of the 2016 AAAS Award for Best Book in History, Association for Asian American Studies
Winner of the 2014 Best First Book, Immigration and Ethnic History Society
Finalist for the 2015 Theodore Saloutos Memorial Book Award, Immigration and Ethnic History Society

Paperback | 2015 | $27.95 | £22.95 | ISBN: 9780691168029
376 pp. | 6 x 9 1/4
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eBook | ISBN: 9781400848874 |
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A Q&A with Ellen D. Wu

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.


"Historian Wu sets the record straight, offering the manner in which Asians worked to overcome prejudice from the 1890s through more recent events, including WWII, the communist revolution in China, and the Korean and Vietnamese wars."--Choice

"The Color of Success provides an insightful account of not just race relations, but race making. . . . It is a remarkable illustration of how ethnic stereotypes have less to do with any innate racial or biological reality, and everything to do with the political dynamics of the societies in which we live."--Christina Ho, Australian Review of Public Affairs

"Wu's research is thorough: her list of news¬papers consulted is mind-boggling, she has read every book and article that matters and worked her way through a multitude of archives. Her argument is complex and has the ring of truth. Her prose is clear and graceful. The book is not really about Asian Americans; it is about Chinese Americans and Japanese Americans. But seldom has a scholar gone so deeply into two different ethnic communities and emerged with such subtle and far-reaching results. The Color of Success is a major intervention in American racial history."--Paul Spickard, Journal of American History

"Ellen D. Wu has produced a masterful work in The Color of Success that very well may prove to be the definitive study of the historical origins of the ‘model minority' stereotype of Asian Americans."--Jonathan Y. Okamura, Patterns of Prejudice

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Table of Contents:

Acknowledgments xi
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
Notes 259
Archival, Primary, and Unpublished Sources 333
Index 341


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