5 Stars By Benjamin on 2016-12-02
E Pluribus Unum
I just finished reading this history of multicultural America, and I just wanted to add my appreciation to Takaki for writing the history of our nation from the point of view of the people who built it and made it as it is.
Finally, a history of the U.S. that speaks the awful truth about the discrimination and horrors so many ethnic groups went through to make America the greatest country on Earth, as it is unfortunately still the case today.
A reading I'd strongly recommend in these times of confusion and hatred, where too many folks tend to forget the challenges and sufferings of Native Americans, African Americans, Irish Americans, Chinese Americans, Japanese Americans, Jewish Americans, Mexican Americans, and so many other groups who came before us.
E pluribus unum ... right?
5 Stars By Shannon on 2015-07-03
Required text or not, a GREAT read!
Required reading for Multicultural Perspectives (along with Kaleidoscope), but this is one of those books I just HAD to keep. I wish that this information was taught in high school, though. It gives the REAL history of America, rather than the watered down, PC version that makes everything look rosy. I'm making my kids read it over the summer.
4 Stars By J. Pribe on 2016-12-15
A little bit of history, a whole lot of perspective
The book is written simply and to make an impact. Society, culture, ethnicity, and prejudice are all complicated subjects and Takaki weaves them together to explain our differences and provide some common ground. The book is mostly chronological, with particular topics (events or groups of people) separated into their own chapters or sections, so every once in awhile there is a bit of a time shift. I think for most readers Takaki reaches his goal of spreading a little of understanding, patience, and acceptance. America is a tough place, no matter your background, but it is far tougher for some.
5 Stars By Joe Santana on 2013-02-01
An Informative Historical Look at the Roots of Modern Day Unconscious Biases in America
This book is an excellent source of information for people who want to round out their understanding of USA history with untold stories from the perspective of those who are seldom heard. Is it biased as other reviewers claim? Yes absolutely, but so is every other book written on American history since we and all these writers are humans and therefore inherently biased. This work essentially gives a third side to what is often presented as an equally biased two dimensional story with the Christian Anglo-European settlers as the completely untarnished heroes taking on savage natives and the paternalistic burden of caring for those so-called less civilized child-like people who are made to serve them. This book does not, in my opinion, take away from the bravery of these settlers and those among them who pushed west. It does provide, however, another important angle of insight into the human beings behind the caricatures. The only thing that I can think of that would have made this book even better is a more rounded presentation of all people characterized as the victims (They too certainly have more than one side). Overall, I believe the greatest value this book offers is a better understanding of the origins of certain unconscious biases held by all of us about race, religion, ethnicity and a host of other topics that still persist in our culture today.
5 Stars By John W. Cowan on 2017-02-21
Ronald Takaki is an Emeritus Professor at the University of California. He is a major writer in the field of Ethnic Studies . A Different Mirror is 445 pages of rather small text, so doing more than hinting at its contents is impossible.
Before reading A Different Mirror I saw our nation’s history as the story of the advance of civilization. “Civilization” being the version of civilization that was developed in England and passed on through our Declaration of Independence and Constitution and the culture of freedom surrounding it. Now I have an awareness of the equal contribution of other streams some already here, and some also from across the seas. And I am deeply aware of the suffering of these peoples in this process.
Takaki starts with the Irish. The English began thumping on them first when as England and Ireland they were neighbors. With ample help from the English the Irish were impoverished. To escape starvation they boarded the boats, came over here, to do the work of the bestial, stupid, filthy underclass. From that point they built themselves into powerful, knowledgeable and wealthy members of the white system. From my childhood to my adulthood the Irish in my family did not stop being a competitive minority under-class until Jack Kennedy became president. On that day we arrived as members of the white power structure.
While the Irish are described well in Takaki’s history, their fellow whites less so., For instance the Swedes are served not at all, nor the Germans, nor the French, , and just a dab at the Italians This is not a complaint. Even a big book has limits.
After the Irish story comes the tragic tale of the stealing of Indian land. The removal of whole native peoples en mass from the lands they had possessed for generations. This attempt at genocide was based on two very disputable “facts.” First the Indians were ignorant savages, and second, they did not need the land since they were not farming it. Until the 1970s we made the practice of Native American religion a crime, destroying their culture .
Takaki covers the story of the Blacks from slavery to Martin Luther King and close to today. No surprises there if you are following the copious coverage of that history in the media, but he squeezes a lot of African American history into these pages. I realized my own narrowness in thinking of racial history as being a Black and White story. Not at all. It is much broader and much worse than that.
The battle of the Alamo looks much less heroic when I realize that it occurred well within the boundaries of Mexico. (A 2017 joke: The Mexicans will pay for a wall on the border if we give them back California.) The Mexicans did not have to migrate to the United States. We moved the lines, and then they were in the United States, but without property rights, in a foreign culture, vulnerable and victimized.
The Chinese arrived to build the railroads from West to East, as the Irish were building them from East to West. Tough work. Single men came first and families later. The Chinese were being pressured by the spreading British Empire on their East to cross the seas and join and collide with the same culture in our West
The Japanese are followed from their arrival in fruitless pursuit of gold (hills of it they had heard) through World War Two where while young male Japanese Americans were grudgingly allowed to fight on the European front, their families were interned in what can only be called prison camps to prevent any possible seditious activity. (None of which ever appeared.)
In Different Mirrors I first discovered that President Roosevelt turned back to certain death in Germany a ship full of Jews trying to escape Hitler. Worse, he did it because the polls showed that ninety percent of United States citizens wanted him to do precisely that.
What I gained from this book is a deep and specific sense of the terrible cost those other than the founders have paid for a seat at the American table.
Does your picture of how we all got here need tuning as badly as mine? Ronald Takaki is a compelling storyteller. Because of that this is about as easy a lesson as anyone can make it.
5 Stars By Koala on 2016-06-03
Such an amazing and excellent book. I'm so happy to read a history book from a non-European perspective. It gives so much detail and to the contributions of minorities in America. I feel like more people should be reading this book because people of all nationalities and backgrounds have contributed something great to the creation of America.
5 Stars By Shay on 2017-11-06
See the world in a new light
I needed it for an ethnic studies class but this turned out to be one of my favorite books. I recommend to anyone interested in learning about the US and the struggles of all minorities.
5 Stars By abe on 2015-03-21
Attitudes towards the Other
This book, well researched and very extensive in its coverage, reveals in great historical detail the attitudes and practices of the majority population of the United States towards its numerous minorities. It is an astonishing corrective to what is so often unthinkingly hailed as our nation "with liberty and justice for all." I highly recommend it.
5 Stars By Cassandra Strand on 1969-12-31
I first read this in college as an assigned reading but I really liked it. I do love history books but I've never cared much about American history. To be honest once we're not talking about ancient Native Americans I tend to lose all interest. However, this book is one of the few books that doesn't bore me on the subject. Part of that being that it's not another history from the traditional standpoint book. It's not whitewashing anything and tells us about the many horrific things we've actually done in the country to ethnic minorities and Native peoples. Most books talking about Americanhistory tend to minimize and downplay these elements, acknowledging them only minimally.
I don't know why but for whatever reason I sold this book after I was done with course and regreted doing so for many years later. I finally decided to just buy myself another copy. One of the few things I didn't like about the book was how pretty much every minority was covered except Arabs/Muslims. In the new copy I noticed that it now includes a section on Afghanistan and Afghan refugees towards the end. This is a step closer to bridging that gap in that it does talk about Muslims and 9/11 minimally but I still feel that it lacks Arab/Muslim trials and suffering in the earlier sections of the book. Many Arabs and Muslims have been part of the US for hundreds of years even though it wasn't till the 1880s that they started coming in larger waves. The Irish who came at a similar time got plenty of space in the book but Arabs/Muslims in America are left out for the most part once again from the historical narrative and left only as a modern day newcomer... once again distanced and part of the continuing problem of seeing them as not really Americans and having no shared background in America or American identity.
5 Stars By G. Ryan on 2016-07-14
Insightful and revealing descriptive studies of the history of multicultural people in America
I Read Ronald Takaki A Different Mirror for a graduate class in social work. This is an excellent historical studies of many of the multicultural in American that covers slavery, Native American removal from their land to the reservations and history, Irish immigrants as the lower white class, occupation of Mexico, Asians immigration to California and workforce, migrant workers, the story of the sweat shops and garment workers, the Chicano border crossing, Urban blacks, and Nazisms. The book is very descriptive of the struggles and hardships, and people who arrived in America with a dream, and the Native American loosing their way of life and home land This book is very insightful book and one worth keeping.