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Journal of Asian American Studies 7.2 (2004) 178-180
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History Book Prize Awardees
With the growth of the field of Asian American history and the increasing numbers of research monographs being published each year, there has come an expanding variety in scholarly approaches. In response to the richness of the field and in an attempt to bring attention to various strengths and developments rather than to limit the recognition of the AAAS History Prize to a single book, the Award Committee has decided to split the 2002 prize between Xiaojian Zhao's Remaking Chinese America: Immigration, Family, and Community, 1940-1965 and Lon Kurashige's Japanese American Celebration and Conflict: A History of Ethnic Identity and Festival in Los Angeles, 1934-1990, with an Honorable Mention to Evelyn Nakano Glenn's Unequal Freedom: How Race and Gender Shaped American Citizenship and Labor (Harvard University Press). We believe that there is merit to recognizing each book for contributions it makes to the field, rather than extolling one as superior to all others nominated.
Xiaojian Zhao's Remaking Chinese America, with its focus on the reunification of trans-Pacific families in the post-World War II period, offers an interpretation of an understudied era in Asian American history that is complex and humane - a rich portrait of families living an ocean apart that reunited and built communities in the United States. Zhao works with equal facility in English and non-English (in this case Chinese) language sources, an admirable trend in Asian American history we believe worthy of highlighting and rewarding. The Award Committee recognizes Zhao's careful use of sources, a solid example of the archival historian's craft blended with oral histories and interviews to bring to life the remaking of Chinese American family life, in particular the impact of an increasing number of women.
Lon Kurashige's Japanese American Celebration and Conflict was recognized for its accessible writing and clear argument, and for its refreshing focus on the annual Miss Nisei Week celebrations in Los Angeles between the years 1934-1990. Drawing attention to the importance of understanding cultural practices such as beauty pageants as a way of charting community politics, Kurashige's book moves away from the gravitational pull of the internment in Japanese American Studies. Japanese American Celebration and Conflict offers a history of an Asian American community over long decades by tracing the changing ways in which a yearly festival was celebrated, and how such changes mapped larger shifts and became highly visible representations for articulating tensions and conflicts in the community. The Award Committee recognizes the novelty of Kurashige's approach and the possibilities for fresh perspectives on well-studied subjects in Asian American history. [End Page 179]
Evelyn Nakano Glenn's Unequal Freedom is in many ways an admirable example of how the parameters of good Asian American history need not be confined by constrained definitions of Asian Americans as a subject of study. Glenn's exploration of the historical intersections between racial and gender stratification in labor markets and their importance in creating hierarchical definitions of American citizenship ranges among the American South, the Southwest, and the plantations of Hawai'i. Bringing together in her analysis various regional sites with very different racial and gendered labor hierarchies, Glenn's book both harkens back to an earlier generation of scholarship that analyzed in concert Asian Americans, African Americans, Mexican Americans, and other racialized groups, and points to current trends in ethnic studies scholarship that focus on the historical intersection of different Asian American migrants and communities with each other and with other groups. A synthetic study that aspires to arguments beyond those possible in more narrowly focused historical monographs such as those of Zhao and Kurashige, Unequal Freedom embeds the history of Asian...