Asians have migrated to North America for centuries, in search of opportunities and conveyed by increasingly dense, international circuits of trade, labor markets, and family networks. Drawn by the riches promised by the relatively undeveloped, but not unpopulated, New World, Asians joined a diverse array of immigrants arriving in capacities such as merchants, farmers, fishermen, soldiers, missionaries, artists and artisans, industrial and agricultural laborers, technicians and scientists, journalists, sailors, diplomats, tourists, bankers, students, and entrepreneurs of every stripe. They contributed significantly to the massive transformation of the United States into the wealthiest and most powerful nation in the world, particularly on the west coast and Hawaii. Unlike their European counterparts, however, Asians challenged American conceptions of racial homogeneity and national culture which produced legislative and institutional efforts to segregate them through immigration laws, restrictions on citizenship, and limits on employment, property ownership, access to public services, and civil rights. Only with World War II, the Cold War, and the Civil Rights era's remaking of racial ideologies and forging of a more egalitarian, multiethnic democracy Asian Americans have gained ground and acceptance, albeit in the still stereotyped category of "model minorities."
Asian American History: A Very Short Introduction provides a narrative interpretation of key themes that emerge in the history of Asian migrations to North America. Clearly written and elegantly argued, this book complements typical American history narratives by highlighting how Asian immigration has shaped the evolution of ideological and legal interpretations of America as a "nation of immigrants."