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Journal of Asian American Studies 5.2 (2002) 190-193
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Asian Americans: the Movement and the Moment. Edited by Steve Louie and Glenn Omatsu. Los Angeles: UCLA Asian American Studies Center Press, 2001
Steve Louie and Glenn Omatsu offer a thoughtful and deeply self-reflexive collection of autobiographical narratives, photo essays, interviews, and short historical essays on the emergence and political formation of the Asian American movement, thirty years after its genesis in the crucible of anti-imperialist, anti-war, and "Third World" liberation movements in and beyond the United States. Most importantly for the field of Asian American Studies, Asian Americans: the Movement and the Moment constitutes a critical and overdue scholarly response to William Wei's unfortunate revisionist text The Asian American Movement (Philadelphia: Temple University Press, 1993). Rupturing Wei's rendition of the movement as a university campus-constrained phenomenon that passed through an awkward political adolescence characterized by misguided militancy and dogmatic radicalism, Louie and Omatsu (along with several other collaborators) have organized an impressive set of primary texts that resonate with seminal Asian [End Page 190] American political texts such as Roots: an Asian American Reader (Los Angeles: UCLA Asian American Studies Center, 1971), Counterpoint (Los Angeles: UCLA Asian American Studies Center, 1976), Gidra (1970-), The AAPA Newspaper (1969-1971), and other grass roots publications of the 1970s liberation movement era. This anthology also provides historical context and breadth to the recent spate of books dealing with contemporary varieties of Asian American activism and critical political discourse, including radical feminist, anti-globalization, radical queer/LGBT, and other movements for social justice and transformation. In this sense, The Movement and the Moment is an important contextualizing complement to such recent texts as Dragon Ladies (Boston: South End Press, 1997), The State of Asian America (Boston: South End Press, 1994), Legacy to Liberation (Brooklyn: Big Red Media, 2000), and Asian American Sexualities (New York: Routledge, 1996).
The Movement and the Moment inscribes a necessarily complex and poly-vocal political history, embodied in the testimonials of "movement veterans" whose affinities to and solidarities with Black liberation, Third World anti-imperialist, (Mexicana/o, Chicana/o, and Pinay/Pinoy) farm labor, and Native sovereignty movements, among others, generates a reconstructed political history of the rise of contemporary "Asian American" discourse and its particular manifestation in the institutionalization of Asian American Studies. The anthology is explicitly engaged in a politics of remembering, compelled to re-cast and re-write (and thus amplify) the historiography of Asian American political radicalism in response to the current anxieties and crises of identification within particularly neoconservative and liberal multicultural varieties of Asian American discourse. At a time when the pedagogical and intellectual projects of Asian American Studies scholars often articulate through modalities of dis-identification from the rich and radical intellectual lineages reflected in The Movement and the Moment, this text restores complexity, contradiction, and nuance to the all-too-frequently simplified genesis story of Asian American politics and social movements. Chris Iijima's reflection on the 1970 production of A Grain of Sand: Music for the Struggle by Asians in America appropriately captures the nature of this commitment as "the construction of a counter-narrative to the white supremacist narrative about the inferiority of people of color and Asians in particular." (7) Complex yet accessible counter-narratives such as Warren Mar's "From Pool Halls to Building Worker's Organizations," Prosy Abarquez-Delacruz' "Holding a Pigeon in My Hand: How Community Organizing Succeeds or Falters," Miriam Ching Yoon Louie's "It's Never Ever Boring! Triple Jeopardy from the Korean Side," Harvey Dong's "Transforming Student Elites into Community Activists," and Daniel C. Tsang's "Slicing Silence: Asian Progressives Come Out" further reflect the Asian American movement's political depth and reach. [End Page 191]
The Movement and the Moment speaks to the far-reaching political imaginary of these radical activist intellectuals, a dimension of social movement praxis that is frequently minimized or categorically ignored in historical and sociological treatments of the Asian American movement. Such a collection of counter-narratives reflects the...