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Other titles in the Historical Studies of Urban America series:
Alien Neighbors, Foreign Friends: Asian Americans, Housing, and the Transformation of Urban California (Historical Studies of Urban America)by Charlotte Brooks
Synopses & Reviews
In 1921 and 1924, the United States passed laws to sharply reduce the influx of immigrants into the country. By allocating only small quotas to the nations of southern and eastern Europe, and banning almost all immigration from Asia, the new laws were supposed to stem the tide of foreigners considered especially inferior and dangerous. However, immigrants continued to come, sailing into the port of New York with fake passports, or from Cuba to Florida, hidden in the holds of boats loaded with contraband liquor. Jews, one of the main targets of the quota laws, figured prominently in the new international underworld of illegal immigration. However, they ultimately managed to escape permanent association with the identity of the illegal alien” in a way that other groups, such as Mexicans, thus far, have not.
In After They Closed the Gates, Libby Garland tells the untold stories of the Jewish migrants and smugglers involved in that underworld, showing how such stories contributed to growing national anxieties about illegal immigration. Garland also helps us understand how Jews were linked to, and then unlinked from, the specter of illegal immigration. By tracing this complex history, Garland offers compelling insights into the contingent nature of citizenship, belonging, and Americanness.
At various times in American history, Irish, Italians, Chinese, Puerto Ricans, Mexicans, and more have been seen—and then, gradually, not seen—as emblems of the unwanted. After They Closed the Gates extends this story to Eastern European Jews after restrictive immigration laws went into effect in the early 1920s. While the quota laws mostly worked as intended, Garland makes it clear that we must pay more attention to how people continued to get through, around, or under the border and to what makes” illegal aliens. She reveals the chaotic, transnational underground of illegal immigration: migrants who sailed into the port of New York with fake German passports; others who came into Florida from Cuba, hidden with Greeks and Chinese in the holds of boats loaded with contraband liquor; and still others who came into Vermont from Canada by car. She explores the responses that government officials, journalists, Jewish organizations, alien smugglers, and migrants themselves had to this new, unsanctioned flow of people over American borders. And she ultimately shows the ways that Jews, by defying simple racial classification, posed challenges for the quota laws and actively worked to dissociate themselves from the specter of the illegal alien.”
Between the early 1900s and the late 1950s, the attitudes of white Californians toward their Asian American neighbors evolved from outright hostility to relative acceptance. Charlotte Brooks examines this transformation through the lens of California’s urban housing markets, arguing that the perceived foreignness of Asian Americans, which initially stranded them in segregated areas, eventually facilitated their integration into neighborhoods that rejected other minorities.
Against the backdrop of cold war efforts to win Asian hearts and minds, whites who saw little difference between Asians and Asian Americans increasingly advocated the latter group’s access to middle-class life and the residential areas that went with it. But as they transformed Asian Americans into a “model minority,” whites purposefully ignored the long backstory of Chinese and Japanese Americans’ early and largely failed attempts to participate in public and private housing programs. As Brooks tells this multifaceted story, she draws on a broad range of sources in multiple languages, giving voice to an array of community leaders, journalists, activists, and homeowners—and insightfully conveying the complexity of racialized housing in a multiracial society.
About the Author
Charlotte Brooks is assistant professor of history at Baruch College, City University of New York.
Table of Contents
List of Abbreviations
Part I. Alien Neighbors
Chinatown, San Francisco: Americas First Segregated Neighborhood
Los Angeles: Americas “White Spot”
The New Deals Third Track: Asian American Citizenship and Public Housing in Depression-Era Los Angeles
“Housing Seems to Be the Problem”: Asian Americans and New Deal Housing Programs in San Francisco
The Subdivision and the War: From Jefferson Park to Internment
Part II. Foreign Friends
“Glorified and Mounted on a Pedestal”: San Francisco Chinatown at War
Equally Unequal: Asian Americans and the Fight for Housing Rights in Postwar California
“The Orientals Whose Friendship Is So Important”: Asian Americans and the Values of Property in Cold War California
What Our Readers Are Saying
History and Social Science » Ethnic Studies » Asian American