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Asian Americans in Michigan

Voices from the Midwest

Edited by Sook Wilkinson and Victor Jew
With a Foreword by Frank H. Wu and an Afterword by Bich Minh Nguyen

Award Winner

Detroit, Michigan, Race and Ethnicity

Great Lakes Books Series

Published: March 2015
ISBN: 9780814332818
Pages: 384 Size: 6 x 9
Illustrations: 4 b&w illus.
Published: March 2015
ISBN: 9780814339749

This is a special book. Between its covers, people write with incredible honesty.

— Joe Grimm

While the number of Asians in Michigan was small for a good portion of the state’s history, many Asian-derived communities have settled in the area and grown significantly over time. In Asian Americans in Michigan: Voices from the Midwest, editors Sook Wilkinson and Victor Jew have assembled forty-one contributors to give an intimate glimpse into Michigan’s Asian-American communities, creating a fuller picture of these often overlooked groups. Accounts in the collection come from a range of perspectives, including first-generation immigrants, those born in the United States, and third- and fourth-generation Americans of Asian heritage.

In five sections, contributors consider the historical and demographic origins of Michigan’s Asian American communities, explore their experiences in memory and legacy keeping, highlight particular aspects of community culture and heritage, and comment on prospects and hopes for the future. This volume’s vibrant mix of contributors trace their ancestries back to East Asia (China, Japan, Korea, Taiwan), South Asia (Bangladesh, India, Pakistan), and Southeast Asia (Cambodia, Laos, Philippines, Thailand, Vietnam, and the Hmong). Though each contributor writes from his or her unique set of experiences, Asian Americans in Michigan also reveals universal values and memories held by larger communities.

Asian Americans in Michigan makes clear the significant contributions by individuals in many fields—including art, business, education, religion, sports, medicine, and politics—and demonstrates the central role of community organizations in bringing ethnic groups together and preserving memories. Readers interested in Michigan history, sociology, and Asian American studies will enjoy this volume.

Sook Wilkinson, Ph.D. is an author, psychologist, and community leader who has devoted more than thirty years of her life to improving the lives of others. Passionate about giving back, she serves as vice chair of the board of trustees at Northern Michigan University. She is active on many nonprofit and advisory boards, including those of Global Detroit and the Asian Pacific Islander American Health Forum. Previously, she served as chair of the Michigan Governor’s Asian Pacific American Affairs Commission.

Victor Jew received his B.A. in history from the University of California–Los Angeles and his doctorate in U.S. history from the University of Wisconsin–Madison, where he currently teaches in the Asian American Studies Program. He taught at institutions such as Cornell University and Michigan State University, where he offered that campus’s first course in Asian American history. He has written on anti-Asian violence in the nineteenth century (Milwaukee in 1889 and Los Angeles in 1871) and is working on a history of Asian American communities in the Midwest from 1870 to the present.

Contributors Include:
Lawrence G. Almeda, Grace Lee Boggs, Tai Chan, Ti-Hua Chang, Christine Chen, Catherine Chung, Kira A. Donnell, Joseph A. Galura, Kul B. Gauri, Jen Hilzinger, Emily Hsiao, Victor Jew, Tukyul Andrew Kim, Barbara W. Kim, Kook-Wha Koh, Sachi Koto, Emily P. Lawsin, Katherine M. Lee, Elaine Lok, Durriya Meer, Kurt R. Metzger, Mimi Doan-Trang Nguyen, Brianna Reckeweg, Asae Shichi, Anna M. Shih, Toshiko Shimoura, Samir Singh, Rachel Hyerim Sisco, Min Hyoung Song, Dylan Sugiyama, Kyo Takahashi, Pratyusha Tummala-Narra, Lynet Uttal, Jeffrey Vang, Frances Kai-Hwa Wang, Sook Wilkinson, Leslie E. Wong, Sheila Xiong, Chelsea Zuzindlak

Over forty authors contributed to this portrait of the mosaic that is Midwestern Asian American life. The book opens with a helpful demographic analysis of Asian Americans in Michigan, using statistics from the 2000 and 2010 US censuses, and proceeds to an interesting history of the growth of Michigan's varied Asian American population [. . .]

– Carl L. Bankston III, The Michigan Historical Review

A new book, Asian Americans in Michigan--Voices from the Midwest, is taking a closer look at Asian Americans in the heartland, where because of small numbers, the community's experience is vastly different from that on the coasts, and where cross-cultural multiethnic and multiracial coalitions and community groups have always been a reality. This is the first book to collect a large number of contemporary Asian American voices in Michigan and the Midwest.

– NBC News

In this book we record the multiple means of becoming Asian American, participating in the great democratic experiment. Now we reveal that each of us has our own unique set of experiences, but we have universal memories as well. We are not alone as Asian Americans, any more than we are all the same.

– Frank H. Wu, from the foreword

This is a remarkable book on the Asian American experience. The topics are very current, and the many voices, some familiar, are detailed and articulate. It's much more than an Asian American anthology; it's a racial and ethnic history, and the continuing legacy in regional America not normally thought of as home to Asians - Michigan, Indiana, Minnesota, Ohio, and other northern Midwest states. Now these voices can be heard.

– Bill Drucker

This is a special book. Between its covers, people write with incredible honesty. There is pain, joy, bitterness, and laughter. Readers cannot help but be moved, though no two people will experience exactly the same feelings. The glimpses they get of such deep emotions will do the book’s work of conveying the rich and unique range of experiences of being Asian American in the Midwest, far from the larger communities on the East and West coasts.

– Joe Grimm, author of Windjammers: Songs of the Great Lakes Sailors (Wayne State University Press, 2002) and co-author of Coney Detroit (Wayne State University Press, 2012)

The editors and other contributors to this multi-vocal anthology are to be commended not only for their estimable scholarship, but also for rendering a formidable service to Asian American community-building in Michigan. This book sets the stage for a full-dress treatment of the Asian American experience in the entire Midwest region.

– Art Hansen, Nichi Bei Weekly

  • 2015 State History Award - Result: Winner