Synopses & Reviews
What is race for? That bracing question animates every page of The Accidental Asian
, a powerful work from one of the nation's leading young voices. In these personal and poignant reflections on assimilation, Eric Liu articulates a vision of American identity that will provoke and inspire.
For Liu, the price of assimilation became clear when he tried to read a memorial book about his father's life, composed in Chinese, and found himself staring at a blur of indecipherable characters. There in his hands was the measure of his inheritance. Liu, meanwhile, has watched with both wonder and concern as a pan-ethnic Asian American identity has taken shape. Here now is a race that offers a new source of roots but also tightens the hold that color has upon our minds. Like so many in the second generation, Liu doesn't know whether to embrace, resist, or redefine assimilation and ends up doing all three at once. He speaks candidly about his journey from a fierce pursuit of racelessness to a slow rapprochement with race. He is not afraid to reveal his ambivalence.
At bottom, Liu is an "accidental Asian" someone who has stumbled upon a sense of race, who is not always sure what to do with it. Weaving narrative and analysis into a series of elegant essays, Liu addresses a broad range of questions: Is whiteness America's fundamental race problem?; Are Asian Americans really the New Jews?; Should we fear the rising might of China?; What does a journey through Chinatown reveal about our own lives?; What might intermarriage mean for Asian Americans and for the future of race itself?; The clear voice in these pages will resonate with Americans of every hue. Beyond black and white, conservative and liberal, native and alien, lies a vast and fertile field of human experience. It is this field that Liu, with insight and compassion, invites us to explore.
"A unique and uniquely American memoir, suffused with smarts, elegance, and warmth." Time
"More than a reminiscence of growing up Asian in America, it is an homage to Liu's Chineseness, and to America." Los Angeles Times
"Wonderfully spirited....Remarkable in its adamant refusal to buy into the party line of identity politics...Liu is fair to all sides of any issue he discusses." TheNew York Times Book Review
"Eris Liu has writtena powerful memoir, a memoir that renders the Asian American experience with a depth and a passion reminiscent of Richar Wright's Black Boy. It is a major contribution to the literature that defines what it means to be an American." Henry Louis Gates, Jr.
Beyond black and white, native and alien, lies a vast and fertile field of human experience. It is here that Eric Liu, former speechwriter for President Clinton and noted political commentator, invites us to explore.
In these compellingly candid essays, Liu reflects on his life as a second-generation Chinese American and reveals the shifting frames of ethnic identity. Finding himself unable to read a Chinese memorial book about his father's life, he looks critically at the cost of his own assimilation. But he casts an equally questioning eye on the effort to sustain vast racial categories like “Asian American.” And as he surveys the rising anxiety about China's influence, Liu illuminates the space that Asians have always occupied in the American imagination. Reminiscent of the work of James Baldwin and its unwavering honesty, The Accidental Asian introduces a powerful and elegant voice into the discussion of what it means to be an American.
About the Author
Eric Liu is a fellow at the New America Foundation and a contributor to Slate and MSNBC. A former speechwriter for President Clinton, he founded The Next Progressive, an acclaimed journal of opinion, and edited the anthology Next: Young American Writers on the New Generation.