There are very few non-fiction books that I would insist that anyone interested in Asian American history and culture must read. There are other important books, but these are the ones that have helped me form my sense of identity as an Asian American.
They include Helen Zia’s “Asian American Dreams,” Bill Hosokawa’s “Nisei: The Quiet Americans,” Phoebe Eng’s “Warrior Lessons,” Ben Fong-Torres’ “The Rice Room” and Ronald Takaki’s “Strangers from a Different Shore.”
Ronald Takaki, who wrote or co-authored more than a dozen books about Asian American identity and race in America, passed away May 26, too young at the age of 70. His landmark book, “Strangers from a Different Shore” was the one that helped me understand the historical flow of Asians to the United States, ethnic group by ethnic groups, and their struggles to be accepted by their new country. If Bill Hosokawa’s “Nisei” helped me realize who I was as a Japanese American, Takaki, along with Helen Zia’s “Asian American Dreams,” helped me figure out my place in a larger context.