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At the heart of American racial and national identity in the nineteenth and twentieth centuries was the family farm ideal: the celebration of white European-American families operating independent, self-sufficient farms that would contribute to the stability of the nation. In California by the 1880s, boosters promoted orchard fruit growing as one of the most idyllic incarnations of the family farm ideal and the lush Santa Clara Valley the finest location to live out this agrarian dream. But in practice, many white growers relied extensively on hired help, which in the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries was largely Asian. Detailing how white farmers made racial and gendered claims to defend their dependence on nonwhite labor, how those claims shifted with the settlement of each Asian immigrant group, and how Chinese, Japanese, and Filipinos sought to create their own version of the American dream in farming, Tsu excavates the social and economic history of agriculture in this famed rural community to reveal the intricate nature of race relations there.
Cecilia M. Tsu is Assistant Professor of HIstory, University of California, Davis