Hot Best Seller

The Loneliest Americans

Availability: Ready to download

A riveting blend of family history and original reportage by a conversation-starting writer for The New York Times Magazine that explores--and reimagines--Asian American identity in a Black and white world In 1965, a new immigration law lifted a century of restrictions against Asian immigrants to the United States. Nobody, including the lawmakers who passed the bill, expec A riveting blend of family history and original reportage by a conversation-starting writer for The New York Times Magazine that explores--and reimagines--Asian American identity in a Black and white world In 1965, a new immigration law lifted a century of restrictions against Asian immigrants to the United States. Nobody, including the lawmakers who passed the bill, expected it to transform the country's demographics. But over the next four decades, millions arrived, including Jay Caspian Kang's parents, grandparents, aunts, and uncles. They came with almost no understanding of their new home, much less the history of "Asian America" that was supposed to define them. The Loneliest Americans is the unforgettable story of Kang and his family as they move from a housing project in Cambridge to an idyllic college town in the South and eventually to the West Coast. Their story unfolds against the backdrop of a rapidly expanding Asian America, as millions more immigrants, many of them working-class or undocumented, stream into the country. At the same time, upwardly mobile urban professionals have struggled to reconcile their parents' assimilationist goals with membership in a multicultural elite--all while trying to carve out a new kind of belonging for their own children, who are neither white nor truly "people of color." Kang recognizes this existential loneliness in himself and in other Asian Americans who try to locate themselves in the country's racial binary. There are the businessmen turning Flushing into a center of immigrant wealth; the casualties of the Los Angeles riots; the impoverished parents in New York City who believe that admission to the city's exam schools is the only way out; the men's right's activists on Reddit ranting about intermarriage; and the handful of protesters who show up at Black Lives Matter rallies holding "Yellow Peril Supports Black Power" signs. Kang's exquisitely crafted book brings these lonely parallel climbers together amid a wave of anti-Asian violence. In response, he calls for a new form of immigrant solidarity--one rooted not in bubble tea and elite college admissions but in the struggles of refugees and the working class.


Compare

A riveting blend of family history and original reportage by a conversation-starting writer for The New York Times Magazine that explores--and reimagines--Asian American identity in a Black and white world In 1965, a new immigration law lifted a century of restrictions against Asian immigrants to the United States. Nobody, including the lawmakers who passed the bill, expec A riveting blend of family history and original reportage by a conversation-starting writer for The New York Times Magazine that explores--and reimagines--Asian American identity in a Black and white world In 1965, a new immigration law lifted a century of restrictions against Asian immigrants to the United States. Nobody, including the lawmakers who passed the bill, expected it to transform the country's demographics. But over the next four decades, millions arrived, including Jay Caspian Kang's parents, grandparents, aunts, and uncles. They came with almost no understanding of their new home, much less the history of "Asian America" that was supposed to define them. The Loneliest Americans is the unforgettable story of Kang and his family as they move from a housing project in Cambridge to an idyllic college town in the South and eventually to the West Coast. Their story unfolds against the backdrop of a rapidly expanding Asian America, as millions more immigrants, many of them working-class or undocumented, stream into the country. At the same time, upwardly mobile urban professionals have struggled to reconcile their parents' assimilationist goals with membership in a multicultural elite--all while trying to carve out a new kind of belonging for their own children, who are neither white nor truly "people of color." Kang recognizes this existential loneliness in himself and in other Asian Americans who try to locate themselves in the country's racial binary. There are the businessmen turning Flushing into a center of immigrant wealth; the casualties of the Los Angeles riots; the impoverished parents in New York City who believe that admission to the city's exam schools is the only way out; the men's right's activists on Reddit ranting about intermarriage; and the handful of protesters who show up at Black Lives Matter rallies holding "Yellow Peril Supports Black Power" signs. Kang's exquisitely crafted book brings these lonely parallel climbers together amid a wave of anti-Asian violence. In response, he calls for a new form of immigrant solidarity--one rooted not in bubble tea and elite college admissions but in the struggles of refugees and the working class.

30 review for The Loneliest Americans

  1. 5 out of 5

    Thomas

    A conversation-provoking text that I give three stars to because I feel like it could have been even better. I will start with what I liked. I feel like Jay Caspian Kang did an excellent job of challenging us to question and to think more deeply about “Asian American” identity, in particular how Asian Americans may try to assimilate to whiteness instead of engaging in solidarity with refugee, undocumented, and working class Asian Americans. He weaves in historical analysis to further flesh out h A conversation-provoking text that I give three stars to because I feel like it could have been even better. I will start with what I liked. I feel like Jay Caspian Kang did an excellent job of challenging us to question and to think more deeply about “Asian American” identity, in particular how Asian Americans may try to assimilate to whiteness instead of engaging in solidarity with refugee, undocumented, and working class Asian Americans. He weaves in historical analysis to further flesh out his arguments and to show how the topics he’s writing about have manifested in the past and into the present. In general, I appreciated the consistency of his voice and tone in The Loneliest Americans: it emanated this existential dread angst vibe that felt authentic to him as a person even if a bit intellectualizing of his emotions at times. One of the major elements of this book I found lacking includes a lack of tangible narratives and actions to disrupt white supremacy and whiteness from within the Asian American community. Kang repeatedly makes the argument that Asian Americans should align themselves with the most marginalized in our community, an argument I agree with, yet he doesn’t delve as deeply into this recommendation as I would like. For example, the book could have benefitted from including voices of actual working class, refugee, undocumented Asian Americans. Furthermore, I do know Asian Americans who are doing the work of fighting for the most marginalized in our communities as well as engaging in solidarity with the Black community – I’m curious why he didn’t include more of those perspectives as well, which would’ve given more examples for readers to follow or learn from. I also felt a little frustrated by how Kang wrote about his own positionality. I appreciate his openness about naming his privilege, how he married a white woman, and the nuanced emotions he has about having a biracial kid. However, I personally wanted a more thorough self-analysis here: so if you’re going to (rightfully) criticize Asian Americans who ascend into upward class mobility and whiteness, how do you feel about your own decision to engage in whiteness in your own life? I don’t want to assume his emotions because only he knows them, though I sensed some unspoken meandering guilt about marrying a white person and having a half-Korean, half-white kid. If he does or even if he doesn’t feel that guilt, instead of wallowing in it, I wanted to know what specifically is he doing to counteract and dismantle the privilege he has and the privilege his child will inherit? Similar to my point in the second paragraph, I also feel like Kang could have included the voices of Asian Americans who have chosen specifically not to date or marry white people and who rather engaged with other people of color or fellow Asian Americans either as romantic partners or lifelong friends. A couple of more minor points (lol I feel like I’m writing one of my reviews for a peer-reviewed manuscript, oops): I found a couple of places in the text I wanted a bit more specificity and precision. For example, on page 59 he writes that “the flood of Asians who came to the United States after Hart-Cellar had no experience with American racism or oppression.” While I appreciate his point about disentangling Asian Americans’ experiences of racism/oppression based on year of immigration as well as his use of a more dramatic tone for rhetorical effect, I think statements like the one on page 59 can obscure the experiences of marginalized groups within the Asian American community, such as LGBTQ+ Asian Americans. Also, there were two places in the book where Kang describes half-Asian, half-white people as especially attractive, once on the first page when describing half-Asian kids he met in his youth and once later on when he describes a half-Asian, half-white man he interviews in the chapter “Flushing Rising.” While my sense is that Kang would want to reject the glorification and idealization of half-white, half-Asian individuals’ appearance over monoracial Asians, I wish he would have more explicitly addressed these incidents in the text and where they came from. Clearly this book was compelling enough to elicit such a strong response from myself and other readers. I’d recommend it as a starting point for conversation and self-reflection, with the additional recommendation of even more reading, introspection, and action to enact some of the more abstract ideals purported by Kang in this book.

  2. 5 out of 5

    Cat

    Pretty disappointed by this book, as someone who generally likes Jay Caspian Kang’s writing and rather abrasive disposition online. Right now, it is popular for Asian American writers to begin their discussions of Asian America with a caveat that “Asian America” as a concept is nonsensical, because of the vast diversity of experiences re: race, ethnicity, gender, etc that cannot be encompassed through a single narrative or frame of analysis. Kang has said this before, and he reiterates it here. Pretty disappointed by this book, as someone who generally likes Jay Caspian Kang’s writing and rather abrasive disposition online. Right now, it is popular for Asian American writers to begin their discussions of Asian America with a caveat that “Asian America” as a concept is nonsensical, because of the vast diversity of experiences re: race, ethnicity, gender, etc that cannot be encompassed through a single narrative or frame of analysis. Kang has said this before, and he reiterates it here. That’s fine, the argument is valid. But he has no problem making sweeping generalizations in other senses, by saying “most immigrants don’t have the racial consciousness to X” or “we, the upwardly mobile Hart-Celler immigrants, still have no idea which side we’re on,”referring to post-1965 immigrants ... which is a huge swath of people! (Worth noting that most of his anecdotes in the book are about Chinese and Korean Americans) Obviously, some of this is polemical but I find his imprecision throughout the book annoying and counterproductive to a meaningful understanding of Asian American identity and politics. Kang says AAs find themselves divided between two camps: nationalists, like the Korean storekeepers bearing guns during the Rodney King riots, or “upwardly mobile second gen immigrants who mimic the language of Black liberation as a way to ascend into a liberal multicultural elite.” First, is there really this clean of a binary? Second, the rendering of the second camp feels bad faith — the initial Asian American movement was founded on ideas from Black Power, do we really want to say those early activists were just trying to buy their way into a liberal multicultural elite? One thing they absorbed was self-determination for their communities, not relying on white institutions but making your own, plus multiculturalism as a concept didn’t really come into vogue until the 90s or so. I mean, if we really want to get into it there’s nuance here but that’s my point — Kang is doing readers a disservice by not being precise, and he’d get further with his arguments by being more focused. The upwardly mobile, second gen AAs become this amorphous entity that he can shove blame onto—the group includes AA celebrities like Simi Liu and AA scholars/activists who might attack the representation politics Simi Liu embodies—which is strange because his conclusions are pretty tepid and basically what many of them have publicly been arguing. “We must align ourselves with the forgotten Asian Americans ‘the refugees, the undocumented, the working class’”’he says. Well duh. Also, how to understand orgs like CAAAV, which represent Asian public housing residents but also talks about Black liberation and anti-capitalism? Where does it fall in the book’s framework? I think Kang’s NYT articles tend to be more illuminating because they’re reported and more centered around a question, whereas this is a lot of personal narrative that is interesting but isn’t necessarily the best at driving home an argument. (Nothing I couldn’t get from reading his tweets) In the MRA section I really wish he’d given a history/definitions of MRAs before diving in, I mean I already know way more about than the average person about MRAs but still there’s a lot I could have used clarification on, like how their political radicalism (reading Malcom X, knowing about Asian American history) converges with their misogyny and why they’ve chosen WMAF relationships as their frontier of activism. (If MRAsians are reading Malcolm, do they fall under the upwardly mobile Asians parroting black liberation?) Ok going to end this word vomit here, maybe I’ll try to clean up my thoughts at some other time but ultimately I’m kind of sad about how meh this book turned out … i was open to an exploration of how how liberal AA rhetoric pushes people to the right because at least right wing talking points feel more honest but this book just doesn’t feel punchy either way :/ I also don’t think it really addresses loneliness that much?

  3. 4 out of 5

    Hannah Yoon || yoon.reads

    I didn’t read too much of Kang’s work until his NYT magazine piece on Steven Yeun from earlier this year. His writing is sharp and thought-provoking, and in many ways, makes you feel a bit uncomfortable. 
The Loneliest Americans examines the historical and political identity of being Asian American. What does this actually mean especially in a Black and white country? The book uses the Hart-Celler Act of 1965 as a central way to explore the history of recent Asian immigration to the US. There’s a I didn’t read too much of Kang’s work until his NYT magazine piece on Steven Yeun from earlier this year. His writing is sharp and thought-provoking, and in many ways, makes you feel a bit uncomfortable. 
The Loneliest Americans examines the historical and political identity of being Asian American. What does this actually mean especially in a Black and white country? The book uses the Hart-Celler Act of 1965 as a central way to explore the history of recent Asian immigration to the US. There’s a part where he addresses the lack of shared history among Asian Americans and how there really isn’t that much that is unifying us other than possibly how we look and how we were treated. Kang challenges a lot of worn-out narratives on this and it might upset you, even when it’s informative. His honesty isn’t there to serve you or make you feel good. Instead, it’ll disrupt the comforts and tropes we hold on to. And I think this is what a book should do - interrogate what we believe, challenge us to question what we determine is true and maybe reframe the way we see the world in order to move forward.

  4. 4 out of 5

    Murtaza

    I'm a big fan of Jay Caspian Kang's writings on race and immigration for the New York Times so I was quite disappointed with this book, which felt both formulaic and rushed. There were some statistical recaps of the ways that immigration from Asia had reshaped the United States, some guarded statements to the effect that not all minorities are the same and that there have been tensions between Asians and African-Americans, and a recap of his own life moving in the similar educational and literar I'm a big fan of Jay Caspian Kang's writings on race and immigration for the New York Times so I was quite disappointed with this book, which felt both formulaic and rushed. There were some statistical recaps of the ways that immigration from Asia had reshaped the United States, some guarded statements to the effect that not all minorities are the same and that there have been tensions between Asians and African-Americans, and a recap of his own life moving in the similar educational and literary circles as most other writers of note in the United States while going through a few familiar second-generation immigrant confusions. That's all perfectly fine, but it was not revelatory in any sense. The book is short and I pushed through it waiting for the moment that it would start to get good but it never came. There was no narrative, but rather a set of essays strung together. It would've been stronger had he done more on-the-ground reporting with Asian immigrants of different walks of life and simply written about their perspectives on various issues rather than using his own life as a through-line. The whole thing felt much safer than it should've been and he was too guarded and careful in the essays to provoke any interesting or new thoughts. This is no knock at Kang: he is still a great writer and reporter and is very honest and even cutting in his New York Times pieces. I'm sure he has a great book in him, although its not as yet arrived.

  5. 4 out of 5

    juch

    i remember in 6th grade me and my friends made a sign for our table called "the asian table" that my black teacher confiscated. it's funny bc i'm from san jose and our school was like 50% asian (this number would climb higher through middle + high school as the white kids went to private school, while the children of vietnamese refugees + chinese, korean, indian, pakistani tech workers toughed out "meritocracy" at public schools that were thankfully for me, good enough but not the kind so intens i remember in 6th grade me and my friends made a sign for our table called "the asian table" that my black teacher confiscated. it's funny bc i'm from san jose and our school was like 50% asian (this number would climb higher through middle + high school as the white kids went to private school, while the children of vietnamese refugees + chinese, korean, indian, pakistani tech workers toughed out "meritocracy" at public schools that were thankfully for me, good enough but not the kind so intense that kids threw themselves on the caltrain tracks). where did that come from? was it ethnocentrism or racial consciousness? youtube, it came from youtube i finished this book an hour ago, just as my mom sent my brother and me a triumphant text about princeton, where we siblings both graduated, hiring an ex mit professor who had gotten "cancelled" at that campus. the article quotes the james madison program lol. earlier this week my bf asked me how many siblings my parents had and i mentioned how both of them had siblings who passed away young, probably bc of poverty/famine/the great leap forward. i'm not really sure. my mom really hates mao zedong and when i wore an ironic marxism hat in college (which after reading about kang's coveting of UWS literati status, i realize was bc i wanted to be like those edgy nass girls w/ the confidence of their ivy league-educated parents to identify as "leftists" (while at the same time being hyper identitarian + resentful of "white privilege," envy and resentment are the same!)). she also hates chesa boudin and once sent me a lecture by a white supremacist claiming that asians have higher IQs i've seen dunks on this book for being like, "we should talk about the asian working class!" while continuing to focus on upwardly mobile post-hart cellar chinese/korean immigrants + their children but i think that critique misses the point. this book is a class analysis of that group of asians. it's not pure representation, like crazy rich asians or smth (or what guilty east asians gesture at when they talk about "centering" other perspectives). it's critical and advocates for emancipatory movement-building while acknowledging how messy and difficult that is (the i hotel chapter was so interesting and it's crazy that the people's temple was involved?? like the ratio of academics historicizing this event to ppl who would know about/participate in smth similar today is so wildly off?? i also saw the BLM chapter as contributing to this thesis), articulating the roadblock as not guilty "indebtedness" (per cathy park hong in minor feelings), a very white liberal feeling, but resentment. korean war vets during the LA riots, MRAzns, and my mom resent liberals for defaulting to social justice platitudes instead of confronting how asian americans represent a bunch of contradictions to those maxims (e.g., men have it easy, testing is bad) i think this is a really interesting + sharp contribution. i guess i'm knocking off a star so i don't seem like a total kang devotee (in fact i want to be a contrarian and degenerate... like kang) and also bc i read cat zhang's goodreads review and i agree w how the argument and terms could be a bit muddied at times. probably the overall framework should've been, here are these groups of asians who are shifting rightward, w/ chapters on origins of asian american movement vs. now, testing, MRAzns, etc. but i guess that would have diluted the memoir part of this book which i really liked and just found personally resonant too. my dad is also a biotech engineer/entrepreneur?? i think saying things like "asian america doesn't exist" or "asians are becoming white" is more provocative than useful when kang is usually very good about precision, saying east asian when you mean east asian and hmong when you mean hmong and rich when you mean rich, etc. i also think "asian american" as a concept is probably not going away any time soon, at the same time "capitalism" and critiques of it are being popular/memeified so maybe with that we do have the vocabulary to distinguish from when "asian american" is used to sell books vs. to try to get ppl interested in things that don't directly affect themselves. i'll probably have more thoughts to add to this later. in the meantime i'm going to tweet this review in hope that someone NOTICES

  6. 5 out of 5

    Vincent

    I finished this in more or less a day. So that probably indicates something about my enjoyment level, or maybe just that it's a pretty quick read. Regardless, I'm very familiar with JCK's political thinking and writing over the last year plus, since I listen to TTSG and read a lot of his writing. So there wasn't a ton in here that I found specifically new. He's been doing this Asian America as a political identity doesn't exist bit for a while now, and I mostly agree. That said, I think the first I finished this in more or less a day. So that probably indicates something about my enjoyment level, or maybe just that it's a pretty quick read. Regardless, I'm very familiar with JCK's political thinking and writing over the last year plus, since I listen to TTSG and read a lot of his writing. So there wasn't a ton in here that I found specifically new. He's been doing this Asian America as a political identity doesn't exist bit for a while now, and I mostly agree. That said, I think the first third to half of the book is by far the best articulation of this premise and interweaving his own narrative. I also think within the context of his criticism, it's hard to dispute. As he transitions into the current era of politics and what to do about all this, which makes up about half of the book, I think the book becomes more meditation than conscription (probably not the right word here but I don't care). He wades through participating in Black Lives Matter protests, MRAZN's, his relationship with white music, and comparing how his daughter will process the world versus himself; all within the framework of Asian Americans not fitting within the American racial binary and the implications of that. At the moment, this part has me less effusive in praise, but I think that's maybe a good thing. I don't concretely know how I feel about his writing here, but I also get the vibe that he isn't fully settled either. I need time to fully process this, but some general thoughts I had as I read. -I agree, we (the upwardly mobile AA's) should be class traitors and have more vested interest in the working class and lower income people. However, I'm not entirely convinced that the vested voting and political interests of these two groups are that different. Both care a lot about education, healthcare, and tending a path of class mobility forward for their children. You could probably throw in safety too. The tendency to vote in tax/economic interests as they ascend in class is true regardless of race/gender/categorization. So if this is true, where is it that upwardly mobile AA's are falling to account for their working class and poor are neglecting with their voting politic. Is it by mostly being libs who vote for the Democrat establishment? If so, sure I agree it would be nice to see a more progressive (or preferably radical) bend to richer people, but I feel that way about basically everyone in this country independent of race. Perhaps, this book is one path for Asian Americans to rebuild a politic and be more progressive/radical through an identity lens, as opposed to the typical DEI seminar + class exclusion lens that liberals have bastardized identity politics into. Now that I've word rambled + meditated through that thought, this falls entirely in line with the politics he portrays and I approve. Maybe I revoke a bit of the initial criticism from above, but I already typed it out so I'm not deleting it. -I think a lot of abstraction about the upwardly mobile class caring a lot about Hollywood representation and management positions aren't their real motivating political factors. I agree that it's annoying and utterly pointless, but I don't really believe that people make political decisions based on Crazy Rich Asians. Perhaps I'm stretching a point, but part of the haranguing of rich AA's, in this book and other work, is centered around effectively telling people representation, especially Hollywood rep, is superfluous and bad to organize around. I don't believe people actually organize around this or let it meaningfully influence their political activity. I think people are just annoying on twitter and a lot of bad stories/op-eds get published by lazy media. -The Epilogue is beautiful. I was pretty thoroughly "in my feelings," as he meditated on his daughter's potential experiences and interaction with this future world. I'm tired of typing for now. But overall, as I process this more I think this book is really brilliant. I don't know that it's any sort of totally prescriptive perfect manifesto that will last in perpetuity, but who cares really, it's great and thoughtful. I think this functions as an interesting sequel/partner reading to Minor Feelings. (To be clear, I do not see these two books in any real opposition. I see these as two very interesting and different meditations that I draw from.)

  7. 5 out of 5

    Kristi

    Very easy to read, I never got bored. (I recently learned this is what academics call "MFA writing" 🙂) I was drawn in by the title, The Loneliest Americans. I was curious if the book would evoke a peculiar loneliness of Asian America. Not quite. Rather, Jay Caspian Kang avoids sentimentality. He begins with his personal history, interspersed with stories from Asian America post-1965. In these early chapters, Kang avoids being prescriptive. His main aim seems to be poking holes in the collective “ Very easy to read, I never got bored. (I recently learned this is what academics call "MFA writing" 🙂) I was drawn in by the title, The Loneliest Americans. I was curious if the book would evoke a peculiar loneliness of Asian America. Not quite. Rather, Jay Caspian Kang avoids sentimentality. He begins with his personal history, interspersed with stories from Asian America post-1965. In these early chapters, Kang avoids being prescriptive. His main aim seems to be poking holes in the collective “Asian American” identity. Reading these sections, I wasn’t picking up on any strong conclusions and midway through the book began asking myself, What is he trying to say? What is he even talking about? Enter, Chapter Six: "What Are We Talking About?" Kang describes his experience reporting on the Philando Castile protests in Minnesota. Commenting on protest movements and their relationship to media, he also critiques Asian American "wokeness." He points to online responses following the massacres at Asian-owned massage parlors in Georgia. Here, he makes some of his most polemic statements. Speaking to upwardly mobile Asian Americans, he argues, "I know that so many of our problems would be solved if we stopped mewling about identity and simply took the time to show up." Restated in the Epilogue: To find a meaningful place in politics...upwardly mobile Asian Americans must drop our neuroses about microaggressions and the bamboo ceiling, and fully align ourselves with the forgotten Asian America: the refugees, the undocumented, and the working class. I enjoy Jay Caspian Kang's honesty. I thought it was funny how sometimes he doesn't even commit to his own conclusions ("The personal should be preserved as the personal, I guess.") Despite his abrasive tone, this book is a sincere exploration of belonging and identity (his own admitted neuroses)—and whether such a search can ever lead to politically meaningful action. What ultimately endeared me to this book was the Epilogue, maybe most personal and earnest, when he writes about his late mentor and shifts between the amorphous anxieties over belonging and identity to the very real anxieties of a parent.

  8. 5 out of 5

    Kevin Chu

    I was intrigued by the fiery reception to the book's launch, in which JCK somehow managed to draw the ire of both Ellen Pao and Reddit MRAzns alike. Upon reading, I found the Loneliest Americans to be far from the self-hating, dirtbag polemic it was made out to be by blue check professional Asian Americans who swore they would never read the book. The Loneliest Americans instead reads as an earnest memoir of Jay's political formation and career as a journalist, crossed with incisive (though ofte I was intrigued by the fiery reception to the book's launch, in which JCK somehow managed to draw the ire of both Ellen Pao and Reddit MRAzns alike. Upon reading, I found the Loneliest Americans to be far from the self-hating, dirtbag polemic it was made out to be by blue check professional Asian Americans who swore they would never read the book. The Loneliest Americans instead reads as an earnest memoir of Jay's political formation and career as a journalist, crossed with incisive (though often sweeping) observations on the state of "Asian America" and a tribute in memoriam of his mentor, Noel Ignatiev (How the Irish Became White). Jay's diagnosis of a complex, incoherent Asian America benefits from his on-the-ground reporting, impressively thorough research, and his ability to connect with and portray with sympathy a glimpse of his subjects' lived experiences. Kang has been doing his "Asian American political identity doesn't actually exist" bit for a while, and this book is his most lengthy articulation of why. By now, I don't think it's that groundbreaking to suggest that Asian America is a wide umbrella that in its watered-down lack of specificity offers dubious political meaning (ethnic studies discourse level zero). At the same time, his distinction between the generation of the sixties, situated in their specific political context that doesn't quite exist anymore, and the subsequent Hart-Cellar generation is an important clarification. Jay seems to be writing against the specific class of Asian American academics and Twitterverse pundits who possessively cling to the mythical Camelot version of 1960s Asian American organizing. I found most insightful how he troubles the notion of a unified political front even in those storied movements of the late sixties, highlighting the tensions that rose within, for example, the I-Hotel resistance characteristic of petty leftist infighting and oneupmanship. We are taught how Asian American identity formed out of political necessity, but even that coalition was tenuous from the beginning. JCK's conclusion that Asian Americans must ground our politics in organizing with the Asian immigrant working and middle class is important, albeit an easy one. It felt like an abrupt close formed in contrast to the exclusively upwardly mobile second generation folks he interviewed throughout the book. I wish he had featured folks such as Nepalese immigrant caregivers in Elmhurst, Fujianese families in Sunset Park with kids on free lunch studying for the SHSAT, or mainland Chinese immigrants taking to WeChat over concerns of rising crime in their underserved neighborhoods. Jay's forewarning that an Asian working class left behind by shallow liberal politics will turn reactionary is a prescient one that I also wish he had covered further beyond the MRAzn chapter. The Loneliest Americans makes for a great companion read to Cathy Park Hong's Minor Feelings. The authors' Twitter spats with each other aside, both works share a similar memoir-criticism structure and degree of neuroses, with JCK appearing to specifically inveigh against many of Minor Feelings' shortcomings.

  9. 5 out of 5

    Kimberly

    Author Jay Caspian Kang sums up this very informative book with this line; "This book is about that desperate need to find oneself within the narrative of a country that would rather write you out of it." Even though Asian Americans, a much broader term than I ever realized before reading this book, face discrimination like all other minority groups living in the United States, their experiences are often ignored or labeled as trivial compared to other more obvious forms of racism, such as polic Author Jay Caspian Kang sums up this very informative book with this line; "This book is about that desperate need to find oneself within the narrative of a country that would rather write you out of it." Even though Asian Americans, a much broader term than I ever realized before reading this book, face discrimination like all other minority groups living in the United States, their experiences are often ignored or labeled as trivial compared to other more obvious forms of racism, such as police shootings of unarmed black people or the detention of Latino children in cages. Though Asian Americans may experience racism in different ways than other peoples of color, they still experience the effects of white supremacy and are not viewed, and do not view themselves, as white. "There are still only two races in America; Black and white. Everyone else is part of a demographic group headed in one direction or the other." It is downright impossible to find an identity in a country that insists upon such a racial binary. As a liberal middle-class white woman, I learned a lot from this book. Taking an honest look at myself, I realized that I am one of those liberals whose good intentions do not always extend to Asian Americans as they do other peoples of color. Just because all of the Asian Americans in my social circle are succeeding well financially, this does not mean that they do not experience racism. Going forward, I am going to do a better job at recognizing the very real issues Asian Americans face in this country, as well as how past policies such as the Chinese Exclusion Act, the Japanese detention camps, and the wars in Vietnam and Korea still influence the present. Many thanks to NetGalley, the author, and the publisher for the opportunity to read an advanced digital copy of this eye-opening book in exchange for my honest review.

  10. 4 out of 5

    Book Minded Mag

    So I read this book expecting to learn more about what Asian Americans go through in America. Jay Caspian Kang provided much more insight into the racism and sense of belonging Asians deal with on a daily basis. But he did not write these problems in a way many would expect. Kang is a cynical person and there are a lot of things he doesn't abide within his own community and the country as a whole. He looks for answers and challenges the ones he receives, as we all should. And he doesn't just loo So I read this book expecting to learn more about what Asian Americans go through in America. Jay Caspian Kang provided much more insight into the racism and sense of belonging Asians deal with on a daily basis. But he did not write these problems in a way many would expect. Kang is a cynical person and there are a lot of things he doesn't abide within his own community and the country as a whole. He looks for answers and challenges the ones he receives, as we all should. And he doesn't just look to people who think like him. He talks to people many of us would avoid like the plague and does it without the silliness of wanting to hear "both sides." Kang looks to his own family as source material for the book, from his parents' immigration to America and his own childhood growing up in predominantly white spaces. He admits his own attitudes towards other minority groups, especially Black people, which I did not find surprising knowing where he grew up. But he also gives readers a mini history lesson about Asian/Black relations, which has been contentious since I can remember. It always confused me why Asians would open shops in Black neighborhoods and then treat us like we're the intruders. I rarely frequented those places because I don't spend money where I'm treated poorly. But I appreciated Kang's perspective on this because I truly think that should these two communities join forces, this country would change dramatically. Unfortunately, I don't see that happening anytime soon. I think this book is definitely one that should be read. Keep your mind open to what is written because it will make you think about a subject that you may not have thought or even cared about. But you should if things are ever going to change. We need to understand each other before we can move forward.

  11. 4 out of 5

    Dawn Michelle

    I am not sure what I was really expecting when I was asked to review this book, but ultimately, what I got was not it [and therefore makes it next to impossible to review as I was bored throughout most of this, along with my disappointment]. I was hoping for more insight in the Asian-American life and the history of Asian and their culture in the US, but what I got was history I already knew [there were a couple of points I didn't know, but it wasn't enough to wow me in regards to this being a s I am not sure what I was really expecting when I was asked to review this book, but ultimately, what I got was not it [and therefore makes it next to impossible to review as I was bored throughout most of this, along with my disappointment]. I was hoping for more insight in the Asian-American life and the history of Asian and their culture in the US, but what I got was history I already knew [there were a couple of points I didn't know, but it wasn't enough to wow me in regards to this being a stand out book because of that knowledge], and some insight into the authors life [which I a not sure was simply whining and not the searching he was aiming for] and how he has felt [sort of] about being Asian in America, but mostly, I got a lot of information on African American culture, the shootings and riots and marches that came out of those shootings and to be honest, that felt...weird. When you think you are going to be reading a book about Asian culture within the USA and you get something completely different, it then becomes really difficult to review said book. I am more confused and even less informed then I was going in, and I didn't enjoy the process getting there. Ultimately, this was not the book for me and I am sad over that - I was hoping for more and was disappointed in the result. Thank you to NetGalley, Jay Caspian Kang and Crown Publishing for providing this ARC in exchange for an honest review.

  12. 4 out of 5

    Lynn

    Good for Thought The author who’s Asian American whose parents are from Korea and whose wife is White, thinks about the place of Asian Americans in American society. In this essay, he looks at the past and ends with Asian Americans being accused of being Chinese and causing the coronavirus. Fear of being brutalized in the streets becomes real but he also knows that emigrating to Korea might be too difficult on his family too. Where do Asian Americans fit in when the county believes itself to be B Good for Thought The author who’s Asian American whose parents are from Korea and whose wife is White, thinks about the place of Asian Americans in American society. In this essay, he looks at the past and ends with Asian Americans being accused of being Chinese and causing the coronavirus. Fear of being brutalized in the streets becomes real but he also knows that emigrating to Korea might be too difficult on his family too. Where do Asian Americans fit in when the county believes itself to be Black or White? Good read.

  13. 4 out of 5

    Natalie Park

    4.5 stars. This is a thought provoking collection of essays and appreciated this perspective of what it means to be Korean American/Korean living in America, Asian American and the complexity of this through a historical lens.

  14. 5 out of 5

    Nursebookie

    The Loneliest Americans By Jay Caspian Kang The Loneliest Americans is a thought provoking essays about Kang's family as they moved from Korea during the time in the mid 60's when the restrictions (Hart-Cellar Act) against Asian immigrants were lifted in the United States. What follows is Kang's perspective of the "Asian American" collective identity, and through a non-traditional memoir that I really enjoyed reading about. His arguments are taut, well-researched and well presented albeit brought The Loneliest Americans By Jay Caspian Kang The Loneliest Americans is a thought provoking essays about Kang's family as they moved from Korea during the time in the mid 60's when the restrictions (Hart-Cellar Act) against Asian immigrants were lifted in the United States. What follows is Kang's perspective of the "Asian American" collective identity, and through a non-traditional memoir that I really enjoyed reading about. His arguments are taut, well-researched and well presented albeit brought more questions to the table. The epilogue was sincerely heartfelt as he ponders the life of his newborn daughter, born mixed race and her place as an Asian American looking more like him than her Jewish mother. This is a book that I will re-read time and time again.

  15. 5 out of 5

    pugs

    based off a lot of reviews and critiques of 'the loneliest americans' i can see the reason for rating it around 3/5, but kang's inquisitive style of writing produced a lot of "hmm, let me think about that" reactions while reading, so i bump it up a star for his insight and introspection of an experience i don't know, but has the writing ability to bring the reader along through his mind. a lot of anecdotes, but also a fair amount of history and cultural accounts, kind of felt like two ends of a based off a lot of reviews and critiques of 'the loneliest americans' i can see the reason for rating it around 3/5, but kang's inquisitive style of writing produced a lot of "hmm, let me think about that" reactions while reading, so i bump it up a star for his insight and introspection of an experience i don't know, but has the writing ability to bring the reader along through his mind. a lot of anecdotes, but also a fair amount of history and cultural accounts, kind of felt like two ends of a timeline curling in on itself-- some reviewers might say i'm giving kang too much structural credit, but hey that's my interpretation, maybe i'm inclined to search for what isn't there. oh, and the essay describing the whole incel/mra-ish corner of the internet was both eerie and interesting. worth a read, buy maybe not a rush?

  16. 5 out of 5

    Aida Ylanan

    This book provided a useful framework for me in thinking about how Asian Americans who came post Hart-Celler differ from those who were in the US before. I agree with supporters of the book who say it’s well researched; I bristled, as I imagine many of his critics did, at some of its sweeping generalizations, which are often delivered in first- or second-person. By focusing so much of its attention on socioeconomically ascendant Asian Americans (who, to be fair, will probably comprise most of th This book provided a useful framework for me in thinking about how Asian Americans who came post Hart-Celler differ from those who were in the US before. I agree with supporters of the book who say it’s well researched; I bristled, as I imagine many of his critics did, at some of its sweeping generalizations, which are often delivered in first- or second-person. By focusing so much of its attention on socioeconomically ascendant Asian Americans (who, to be fair, will probably comprise most of the readership of this book) the text can feel a little narrowly focused, though isn’t that the point? That Asian Americans, as a group, are so diverse it would be unrealistic to expect a single book to cover it all? I appreciate Kang’s ambitious goal in bringing these necessary questions and critiques out of the Twittersphere and into a single coherent, yet polemical, text. It feels like just the beginning — for more productive conversations about identity, but also for a more personal reckoning with the quiet estrangement and conflict I’ve felt with the term that has, until now, previously gone unsaid.

  17. 5 out of 5

    Mythili

    I was really looking forward to this—I’ve enjoyed Kang’s NYT magazine reporting/essays and ideas on Time to Say Goodbye. And there is some terrific, mercilessly searching writing here that skewers a lot of commonly-held assumptions about Asian American-ness. Plus Kang’s own personal/family story is inherently interesting. But I wanted the whole thing to cohere into a clearer bigger vision about … oh, racial identity in America? Or what good citizenship or good politics looks like for the upwardl I was really looking forward to this—I’ve enjoyed Kang’s NYT magazine reporting/essays and ideas on Time to Say Goodbye. And there is some terrific, mercilessly searching writing here that skewers a lot of commonly-held assumptions about Asian American-ness. Plus Kang’s own personal/family story is inherently interesting. But I wanted the whole thing to cohere into a clearer bigger vision about … oh, racial identity in America? Or what good citizenship or good politics looks like for the upwardly mobile immigrant? There were lots of strains of interesting arguments but it didn’t all connect for me. Some of it (the dichotomy between blackness and everything else, for example) felt a little too simplified. And I felt that sometimes his self-interrogation veered into self-flagellation, which, while entertaining, was ultimately a little unsatisfying. Anyway, this is a good book! I just wanted it to be even better!

  18. 5 out of 5

    Lyuba

    2.5 stars. This felt very clumsy, but I did learn a lot and appreciated the difficult questions weaved through the personal musings and historical context.

  19. 5 out of 5

    Merricat Blackwood

    A few excellent reported pieces knitted together with a thesis that barely exists. Certain sections are really compelling. A section on the meaning of L.A.’s Koreatown, and its destruction during the 1992 riots, mostly recapitulates other people’s research and reporting, but Kang weaves together sources in a way that shows what a genuine loss this was to Korean immigrants. 1800 Korean businesses burned down over the course of the riots, including the U.S.’s first Korean grocery store, and while A few excellent reported pieces knitted together with a thesis that barely exists. Certain sections are really compelling. A section on the meaning of L.A.’s Koreatown, and its destruction during the 1992 riots, mostly recapitulates other people’s research and reporting, but Kang weaves together sources in a way that shows what a genuine loss this was to Korean immigrants. 1800 Korean businesses burned down over the course of the riots, including the U.S.’s first Korean grocery store, and while public money rebuilt much of the rest of L.A., Korean business owners got almost no help from the government. Kang also tells the story of the defense of San Francisco’s International Hotel (or the “I-Hotel”), a single room occupancy building where many elderly Asian immigrants lived. (These men typically lived alone because of restrictive laws that prevented their families from immigrating with them.) In the late 1960s, the landlord of the I-Hotel began making plans to evict the tenants and demolish the building. Asian American college students, many of whom had developed politically through opposition to the Vietnam War, through the Black Power movement, or through identification with the global Third World movement, joined the building’s mostly elderly and working-class tenants to resist the eviction. This was a rare instance of cross-generation solidarity among Asian Americans; it was also, according to Kang, the first time that the phrase “Asian American” was widely used. Such a sense of unity among Asian diaspora people in the U.S., Kang argues, is an anomaly; as a rule, the different populations grouped under the title “Asian American” don’t have much to do with each other. Much of his analysis goes back to the Hart-Celler Act, a 1965 law that removed the caps on Asian immigration to the U.S. imposed in 1924. The Hart-Celler Act opened the doors to immigrants, including Kang’s own Korean parents, and resulted in a significant increase in the Asian American population. It also created a new system of categorizing and prioritizing immigrants, including a preference for immigrants with professional and specialized skills. This meant that, from 1965, the Asian immigrants arriving in the U.S. were distinctly different from those who came before: for the most part not single men who came as laborers, but well-educated, upper-middle-class migrants who often arrived as families. Many of them arrived in the U.S. with small amounts of capital that they used to start small businesses (like the corner stores and salons that burned in L.A. in 1992). These new immigrants would have had little common ground with either the student radicals or the elderly laborers at the I-Hotel. This generation, Kang argues, did not experience American racism in the brutal forms that affected earlier waves of immigrants: the Chinese Exclusion Act and its aftermath, wartime Japanese internment. Many of them had experienced the ravages of American imperialism in Korea or Vietnam, but the result of this was a view of America that was ambivalent at worst. The U.S. may have been the source of terror (and the patron of brutal governments like the Park dictatorship in South Korea, which Kang’s family fled after coming as refugees from the North), but it was also the source of escape. These immigrants simply had few points of solidarity with those from older generations. Kang spends a good deal of the rest of the book dutifully fretting over how we ought to be paying more attention to working-class and undocumented Asian immigrants, while documenting the lifestyles and neuroses of the post-Hart-Celler professional class of immigrants that he belongs to. A section about how Tommy Huang, “the Asian American Donald Trump,” turned Flushing, Queens into a shoddily built but thriving little Taipei is well-reported and compelling, and builds on Kang’s theme of successive richer generations of Asian immigrants that have little to do with those who came before. A chapter about “MRAZNs,” Asian American men who combine superficial revolutionary rhetoric with misogyny and a particular hatred of Asian women who date white men, is probably the book’s best bit. It’s certainly the section where Kang’s writing is most specific and engaged, tracing how Reddit posts incorporate the rhetoric of Malcolm X and anti-imperialist academics. Kang writes about the training and test-prep schools in New York City that have made Asians the largest demographic in the city’s most prestigious and selective public schools. He notes that this success is not just a function of privilege; undocumented Fujianese students, who live in intense poverty in the city, still make it into the best schools in impressive numbers. But even in this section, he mostly interviews Asians from the upper middle class. Another chapter examines Kang’s feelings about being Asian at a protest against the police killing of Philando Castile. This section feels directionless--Kang wants to say something about being neither white nor Black at a moment of intense focus on white supremacy and anti-Black racism, but it’s not clear what, and his relentless self-focus is tasteless. You want to say, Jay, a man died. In general, Kang seems to be gesturing at the idea that there isn’t a real place for Asians in America’s racial hierarchy, but his writing isn’t analytical or specific enough to show what this means or why it matters. His reflections on the Asian American experience often seem to assume that every non-Asian’s experience of race is static and clearly defined, that no one else in American history has ever been both an oppressor and a victim. He claims that “the assimilated Asian American must disavow Tou Thao” (the Hmong cop who stood by while Derek Chauvin murdered George Floyd), but that “doing so also requires us to turn a blind eye to the struggles in our own community. We cannot ask about the treatment of Thao’s Hmong people in America, much less the persecution they faced in Southeast Asia that led tens of thousands to seek refugee status and settle in the midwestern United States.” Is that true--is it inevitably true that we can’t identify Thao as part of a white supremacist institution and also grasp that he has suffered racial harm? Half of the cops who killed Freddie Gray were Black. It doesn’t seem paradoxical or even particularly hard to grasp to me that a person can suffer racism and still want to align himself with a racist institution, either because he wrongly believes in it or just out of cynicism. Kang describes himself as an adolescent as “flitting” back and forth between whiteness and Blackness; the flitting into Blackness is his obsession with rap music and culture. Of course, countless white Americans of Kang’s generation shared that obsession, and it didn’t make them less white. Reflecting on his desire to make his life match up to the literature he loved--Franny and Zooey, the works of the Beat poets--Kang writes that Asian Americans constantly “try to match the edges to the contours of our lives,” but “no narrative feels particularly relevant.” Isn’t that a universal experience of book-loving kids? I too longed to smoke an entire pack of cigarettes in the Glass family bathtub when I was a teenager, and maybe Kang’s longing was of a different quality than mine, but he hasn’t succeeded in evoking that difference. Kang often seems to be arguing against a phantom interlocutor who thinks that Asian Americans are basically white. (I think this is such a fringe position as to be hardly worth rebutting, but then I don’t occupy the same discursive world that Kang does.) He writes that the Asian Americans he knows “never felt white a day in [their] life” and “never wanted to be white in the first place,” but surely that’s also true of most white people. I would argue that not “feeling” your race is, in fact, the defining feature of whiteness. Kang writes fetishistically about the suffering his family, and other Asian families, endured to come to America. Well, my Irish ancestors were colonized and brutalized and faced grinding poverty and race hatred, and that didn’t stop me from becoming a perfectly generic white American. Changeability is built into the American conception of race. The biggest problem, ultimately, is that whenever Kang dives directly into his overarching themes--the black/white racial binary, the alleged “whiteness” or “white-adjacency” of Asians--his writing becomes timid and muddled. Take this set of sentences, from the beginning of the paragraph on the Philando Castile protests: “The images of the civil rights movement, rendered in black and white and seared into our memories at an early age, float around in a soup of widely accepted memes, which, when stripped of their context, become fodder for television commercials and glossy, manipulated renderings of history. ‘Injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere’ became Martin Luther King Jr.’s most quoted line because it’s flexible enough to be used in nearly any context. When hundreds of Chinese Americans met in Brooklyn’s Cadman Plaza Park to protest the conviction of Peter Liang, an NYPD rookie who shot and killed an unarmed Black man named Akai Gurley in the stairwell of a New York City housing project, that slogan was on their signs. This was met with sharp rebuke and attempts at correction--this is not what King meant--but it hardly mattered, because justice is the most intractable idea in America, and you can’t really change anyone’s mind on the matter.” I can kind of grasp what Kang is getting at here--the Civil Rights Movement circulates as a set of images that can be appropriated and have their moral gravitas borrowed by anyone, even someone with wildly unjust ends--but come on, you have to build to a climax better than “justice is the most intractable idea in America.” Part of the problem here is that when Kang gets theoretical, his language gets absolutely bled of flavor. It’s fine to be ambivalent, but if you’re ambivalent with no style and no resonance, what’s the goal?

  20. 5 out of 5

    Sam

    Jay Caspian Kang has written a superb book that upends the conventional wisdom on Asian Americans. Funny, sharp, and always insightful, THE LONELIEST AMERICANS challenges readers to reconsider their beliefs about race and class in the U.S.

  21. 4 out of 5

    Ethan Lee

    The overall impression I got from Jay Caspian Kang's The Loneliest Americans is that Jay Caspian Kang likes to ask questions. When you're unsure about your position and identity within the multicultural slate of the world as Kang is, you almost can't help but ask them. Kang is at least sure about one thing: Asian Americans are lonely. And he likes to back this up with a rather extensive (albeit, insular) lesson in Asian American history and activism. Each chapter seems to observe different facet The overall impression I got from Jay Caspian Kang's The Loneliest Americans is that Jay Caspian Kang likes to ask questions. When you're unsure about your position and identity within the multicultural slate of the world as Kang is, you almost can't help but ask them. Kang is at least sure about one thing: Asian Americans are lonely. And he likes to back this up with a rather extensive (albeit, insular) lesson in Asian American history and activism. Each chapter seems to observe different facets of just how lonely Asian Americans are and offers the evidence, whether it's rooted in the politically-quenching roots of the term, or displayed more recently in the rise of online incel MRAZNs whose sexual fragility has been reduced to shards of toxic misogyny thinly disguised as windows into Asian American activism. All of these stories and anecdotes cater to the narrative that Asian American loneliness is rooted in a history of assimilation into white society while still navigating the world as POC, which isn't a novel concept. How do Asian Americans navigate a sociopolitical space with no shared history or struggle and evaluate the problems in a community built on a binary framework of race? I say Kang's lessons are insular because they are; his stories are usually derived from personal anecdotes and hand-picked stories in history and will probably apply and appeal most to the upper-middle class Korean and Chinese American communities (Hart-Cellar immigrants who sought upward mobility in the States post-1965, as he calls them). Kang's anecdotes include, but also exclude, a lot of history, and he is quick to couple them with scathing judgments to varying degrees of agreement. He harshly describes Asian Americans connecting with cultural garb as "cosplay", equating the act with self cultural appropriation, with which I find myself in ambivalent disagreement. To me, that's the same as saying reading his book is provincial performative activism, as his critics may say. When Asian Americans feel distant from a heritage they never knew, they'll likely do what they can afford to find the seeds to foster that connection - we can't criticize them for not knowing better when they need to start somewhere. At the same time, I can also see from where his negativity grows - Kang recognizes that Asian Americans stand in a space where they sometimes can afford to clock out from being Asian American for the day and continue their assimilation into whiteness. His harshness, while unwarranted, usually has an ounce of truth to it and can also prompt us to think more carefully about how we view our culture and identity. His anecdotes and judgments may very well be imperfect, but they provide Kang the stable personal support to draw themes and conclusions that more or less speak on the unstable framework of the Asian American diaspora with reasonable accuracy and precision, and they still manage to rile up my critical thinking and help find my own footing within this uncertain space. For that, I can give the book credit for spurring me to ask myself the tougher questions and reflect on my approach to my own identity. The Loneliest Americans seems to be more in the business of story-telling for the sake of repertoire expansion than it is in offering answers to its self-imposed questions. Readers may be disappointed when they open it up expecting definitive solutions to our loneliness, only to find questions and ruminations that are, at at best, repetitive, and, at worst, ignorant, but I don't think this is the mindset intended for this book. Kang provides stories and anecdotes to articulate why being Asian American can be so complicated and difficult to navigate within a seemingly binary world of race. But, as Kang says himself, the key to finding any solutions to this loneliness and moving forward is in choosing the narratives and stories for ourselves. And Kang certainly made his contributions.

  22. 4 out of 5

    Iris Kim

    "Modern Asian American identity is built out of the assumption that because we aren’t white, we must be “people of color.” But this is all greatly complicated by class: the upwardly mobile Asian Americans hang in a suspended state outside the Black-white binary, while the millions of Asian working poor have been made entirely invisible, not just by white people but also by their professional brothers and sisters. Perhaps we, the children of Hart-Celler, are simply biding our time until someone t "Modern Asian American identity is built out of the assumption that because we aren’t white, we must be “people of color.” But this is all greatly complicated by class: the upwardly mobile Asian Americans hang in a suspended state outside the Black-white binary, while the millions of Asian working poor have been made entirely invisible, not just by white people but also by their professional brothers and sisters. Perhaps we, the children of Hart-Celler, are simply biding our time until someone tells us which side we’re on. For Richard Rhee and the men on top of California Market, the calculus was much simpler: America would never accept them as white. The questions of identity that would plague their children meant nothing to them. They weren’t Asian Americans or Korean Americans or “not Black,” but Korean people in America.” A thought-provoking, humorous read full of Jay Caspian Kang's relatable neurotic musings about the upper income class Asian American. Didn't quite reach the level of inspiration that I felt after reading Minor Feelings, but I enjoyed Kang's personal anecdotes and candor on the page.

  23. 5 out of 5

    Nithin Vejendla

    I read this a few weeks ago, I liked most of it. Kang brings up some good points about how Asian Americans try to see themselves as united, when in reality there's not much of a common experience that binds Asian Americans (especially the post 1965 generation) other than having ancestors who come from Asia, a continent that encompasses nearly 50% of humanity's population. There's an anecdote at the end where we waxes poetic about Bruce Springsteen, which I didn't really understand. Overall, was I read this a few weeks ago, I liked most of it. Kang brings up some good points about how Asian Americans try to see themselves as united, when in reality there's not much of a common experience that binds Asian Americans (especially the post 1965 generation) other than having ancestors who come from Asia, a continent that encompasses nearly 50% of humanity's population. There's an anecdote at the end where we waxes poetic about Bruce Springsteen, which I didn't really understand. Overall, was very happy about the first 2/3rds of the book, the last third was meh.

  24. 5 out of 5

    Eric

    TL;DR Jay Caspian Kang’s The Loneliest Americans is a lovely, complicated, nuanced contemplation of the place of Asian immigrants and their descendants in the U.S. This book had me reflecting a lot on current current trends in politics. Highly, highly recommended. Disclaimer: The publisher provided a copy of this book in exchange for an honest review. Any and all opinions that follow are mine alone. Review: The Loneliest Americans by Jay Caspian Kang Do you ever have moments where you read s TL;DR Jay Caspian Kang’s The Loneliest Americans is a lovely, complicated, nuanced contemplation of the place of Asian immigrants and their descendants in the U.S. This book had me reflecting a lot on current current trends in politics. Highly, highly recommended. Disclaimer: The publisher provided a copy of this book in exchange for an honest review. Any and all opinions that follow are mine alone. Review: The Loneliest Americans by Jay Caspian Kang Do you ever have moments where you read something in a book, and it brings something so obvious to your attention that you sort of feel dumb afterwards for never having noticed it before? Well, that happened with me while reading The Loneliest Americans by Jay Caspian Kang. He talked about identity politics in the U.S. as a racial binary. I had never encountered this phrase before, but it was so perfect, I had to put the book down to ponder it. It perfectly describes something I had noticed but never put into words. This might be understandable as I’m a straight, white, cis-male from the Midwest. I’m not exactly on the cutting edge of racial political scholarship or activism, but I do try to educate myself so as to only be woefully behind rather than dreadfully out of date. And I do have to admit that when it comes to identity politics, I have done no work when it comes to Asian identity. That is part of the reason that I picked up the The Loneliest Americans; I need to do work in that area. Luckily, Jay Caspian Kang wrote an engaging, detailed book that complicates what little I do know and raises frustrating and fascinating questions. I found myself highlighting much of the book and searching out stories that Kang discusses. The Loneliest Americans is a lovely balance of memoir and critique. I can’t tell you whether Kang is pro- or anti-identity politics after finishing the book. In fact, I think it’s the wrong question to ask. I think, Kang asks an inherently human question. Where do I fit into society? But for Kang and many like him, that question is complicated by a society where racism is structural and rampant while at the same time affecting him in different ways than what we traditionally think of as racist. There’s so much I want to say about this book, but it’d be better if you just read it. The Loneliest Americans meditates upon the position of Asian Americans in the U.S. racial binary. Are they people of color? Are they white? Kang ponders these questions throughout the book in nuanced and deep ways. He uses the story of his family’s journey from the Korean War to today as way to interrogate these questions. But this isn’t just a memoir. The Loneliest American critiques U.S. culture, and no culture avoids the lens here. Kang concerns himself with the place of Asians in the U.S. What is Asian American culture? Is there even such a thing? The Loneliest Americans is a short, quick read, but this doesn’t mean it lacks depth. There is a lot of information packed into this slim volume. Kang focuses on the Hart-Celler Act, or the Immigration and Nationality Act of 1965. This abolished the National Origins Formula, which discriminated against certain immigrants based on, you guessed it, national origin. As you may have guessed from its inclusion in this book, the Hart-Celler Act had a large effect on immigration from the Eastern Hemisphere. Kang’s family came from Korea, and his father’s story is that of the American dream. He works his way up owning his own company and then being a CEO for a Korean company. But, of course, the story is more complicated than that. We learn that his father gave it up to become a farmer in the Pacific Northwest. Kang using his family’s story to detail the effects of Hart-Celler was really well done. Too often, today, immigration is short hand for Mexicans or Latinos at the southern border, and again this is a way of erasing other populations. The Hart-Celler act removed discriminatory practices that some today would like to put back in place. In addition to his own story, Kang looks at what it means to be Asian American in the U.S. It’s complicated. Unfortunately the current racial politics of the U.S. is best described as a binary, whites versus people of color (PoC). Except that PoC often simply means black. The black experience in the U.S. is most prominent amongst PoC, but racism targets them all equally. And what’s more, Asian is incredibly reductive as it makes such a large part of the world filled with numerous cultures and languages into a singular identity. Kang interrogates the place of Asian America in that binary, and there are no easy answers. I’m not sure there are answers at all. Kang, however, takes the reader through those thorny questions with as much objectivity as possible. Even when he’s discussing Asian Men’s Rights Groups on Reddit, he’s clear about his feelings toward these ideologies while presenting the people involved as three dimensional beings, not caricatures. To me, this made the people involved even sadder than before because they are men trying to find their way in this world being led astray in the name of politics and heritage. This section was super uncomfortable for me, which means I liked it the most. There’s good writing, good details about the men and their ideology. Kang also describes how an acquaintance of his went down that particular path. It’s excellent journalism and a captivating read. U.S. Racial Binary The Loneliest Americans opened up my personal view of identity politics in the U.S. Of course, racism against Asians is something that is pervasive in the U.S. Anyone paying attention to how the American political right has used that racism to distract from their abdication of leadership during the pandemic knows this. At the same time, though, the U.S. has always had racist views of the Asian community. From internment camps to fears of Japanese business takeovers in the 90s to fears of China calling American debt due, the U.S. only seems to pay attention to Asians as a source of fear. Or in the case of Asian women with a fetishization. Despite the fact that Asians have fit into nearly all communities across the U.S., despite the rise in popularity of K-Pop and Korean dramas, despite the proliferation (and watering down) of Asian cultures through martial arts and food, the U.S. – right, left, and center – still do not know what to do with Asians. Part of this reason is because Americans are lazy, and we like to group things together. So, we group people from the Eastern Hemisphere who look similar under one banner. This removes an incredible amount of diversity. We are asking people from Korea to Japan to China to Thailand to the Philippines to Fiji to Malaysia to identify with each other simply because it fits our categories. Immigrants from these countries don’t share languages or cultures; they might not even be of the same class. Someone from Japan might come here with enough money to or maybe even get a loan to start a small business. While a different immigrant from Vietnam might come here to get a job in a screen printing shop. Yet, we expect these two people to fit equally into our nice little category. In addition, Kang really opened my eyes to the racial binary under which our country operates. For the people between the poles of white or black, they are compared to either side while being their own identity. For example, Latinos in Texas are lumped in with Latinos in southern Florida despite having their own identities. What effect does this have on people? Kang gives numerous examples, and they are heartbreaking. Class versus Identity? If you’ve read other of my reviews, you might see that I believe Leftists focus entirely too much on class. The Loneliest Americans has shown me that maybe I’ve discounted it a bit too much. Kang discusses the efforts of upwardly mobile Asian Americans. Again, does a second generation graduate of Harvard really have the same identity as an immigrant in a factory? But no one can discount that both might be targeted because of their race. And while Asian Americans are often seen as professional and industrious, how often do they break through to the upper echelons of businesses or even government? Does their race limit their upward mobility? Question like these complicate discussion of identity and racial politics. They are real and important questions deserving of consideration but often get hidden by the more horrific and visceral problems of racial politics. But just because one person is middle-class or even wealthy, the racism against them is no less wrong. Is it just as wrong, though, to expect someone who is middle class to have the same problems of someone who is poor simply because of their Asian heritage? Is it okay to ignore the structural racism targeted at the middle class and upwardly mobile in order to better the poorer Asians? These are questions that complicate any analysis of political identity. Just Identity One of the other things that Kang does so well is he made me wonder if maybe there are just basic questions of identity that get swept up into questions of racial identity. At some point, we all have identity questions, right? Am I an engineer, a writer, what makes me, me? These are questions we all ask ourselves. One of the privileges I have is that I don’t have to consider how my race will affect the formation of that identity. But when does the focus on race cloud other questions? Kang uses an example of a friend trying and failing to get a show about his experiences made in Hollywood. Now, we know Hollywood has a representation problem. People of color are starting to make headway in the industry, but the majority of lead roles still go to white actors. Again, it’s getting better, but there’s also a long way to go. With that said, how do we know if the show was rejected because it was considered “too Asian” or was it simply not good? Obviously we can’t know this, but Kang’s friend leans towards the “too Asian” reason. Knowing that Fresh Off the Boat was toned down for U.S. audiences, it’s not a stretch to believe a show could get passed on because of the issues of race and culture raised in it. But it’s also not a stretch to believe that the show wasn’t good enough for TV. The fact that PoC have to reflect on this possibility adds a layer of effort on their creative work, which is hard enough on its own. How do PoC navigate those questions? It has to be exhausting. Conclusion Jay Caspian Kang’s The Loneliest Americans is an excellent rumination on the current state of racial politics with regard to Asian Americans. If you read this book, I recommend having a highlighter or pen in hand. I marked passages up and down my copy of the eBook. There’s good writing that provokes deeper reflection. Kang’s work doesn’t present us with easy answers, and The Loneliest Americans presents thorny issues for all parties engaged in identity politics to consider. The Loneliest Americans is worth the read to get a new perspective on what it means to be an American.

  25. 5 out of 5

    Andrew

    entertaining, more of a collection of thoughts rather than a story. enjoyed but don't expect a prescriptive solution to race identity lol entertaining, more of a collection of thoughts rather than a story. enjoyed but don't expect a prescriptive solution to race identity lol

  26. 5 out of 5

    Maria Paz

    Loved this book I loved this book. Not sure what everyone’s mad about. There were like some polemical overstatements, easily decontextualised by h8ters, in the service of a largely uncontroversial point (to me). It’s a memoir dudes, chill

  27. 4 out of 5

    Monica

    This is my first time reading Jay Caspian Kang's work and enjoyed the way he incorporated personal experiences with factual information on Asian people in America. There aren't many non-fiction books out there that talk about the racism Asians face in North America that aren't academic works, so I found this was readable and interesting for the average everyday reader. Stereotypes of Asian people in society - mainly the model minority myth - is an area I've studied quite in depth for my Master's This is my first time reading Jay Caspian Kang's work and enjoyed the way he incorporated personal experiences with factual information on Asian people in America. There aren't many non-fiction books out there that talk about the racism Asians face in North America that aren't academic works, so I found this was readable and interesting for the average everyday reader. Stereotypes of Asian people in society - mainly the model minority myth - is an area I've studied quite in depth for my Master's degree so this book definitely reached my interests talking about racism against Asian peoples. In North America, race and racism is often discussed in the dichotomy of white and Black, leaving other people of colour kind of lost somewhere in the middle. Especially given the perceived success of Asian people in America, there is the assumption that Asians do not experience racism since we are are close to being white as any other race. And when we do experience racism like the instances of violence during the COVID-19 pandemic, it often isn't taken as seriously because Asian people do not experience the same levels of violence as Black people do. This puts Asians in a position where, Kang describes as, lonely because our struggles aren't acknowledged by most people. It was an engaging non-fiction read and gave me some points to think about that I hadn't considered before.

  28. 5 out of 5

    Claire

    "When I say Asians are the loneliest Americans I am not conjuring up a vision of an ancient, weather-beaten man playing a one string violin by the window of a Chinatown tenement. I have no idea if that man is lonely or not. Rather, i am talking about the loneliness that comes from attempts to assimilate, whether by melting into the white middle class or by creating an elaborate, yet ultimately derivative, racial "identity." The later serves a double purpose. First, and most important, it serves "When I say Asians are the loneliest Americans I am not conjuring up a vision of an ancient, weather-beaten man playing a one string violin by the window of a Chinatown tenement. I have no idea if that man is lonely or not. Rather, i am talking about the loneliness that comes from attempts to assimilate, whether by melting into the white middle class or by creating an elaborate, yet ultimately derivative, racial "identity." The later serves a double purpose. First, and most important, it serves as an explanation to white people: This is who we are, and here are the ways in which we are both different and the same as you. Second, it allows for the illusion of solidarity. By mimicking the language of the Black struggle in America, we hope to become legible as a comrade, a fellow traveler, or a "person of color." There's an implicit apology to this sort of pleading: We know we don't have it as bad as you, but we also aren't white and need a way to talk about it" (14). "History, in some ways, is a choice; my parents chose to deprive their children of the past. Since we never learned about the Korean War of Japanese imperialism or any immigration stories outside of Ellis Island in school, my sister and I did not really know that we could pinpoint ourselves within a linear history of oppression" (21) "We can totally destroy that investment, and can ruthlessly and stupidly destroy faith and respect in our great principles, by enacting laws that, in effect, say to the peoples of the world: 'We love you, but we love you from afar. We want you, but for God's sake, stay where you are'" (29). "This blinkered optimism is common among Asian immigrants who came over after 1965. Liberation, in many ways, happens when you free yourself from the oppression you know. For the Chinese immigrants who grew up under the Cultural Revolution and came to America after Tiananmen Square, the small humiliations they faced were unfamiliar and not as deeply felt as the relief from escaping a brutal, bureaucratic government" (30). "(My quibble with the anti-assimilationists who say that assimilation only comes out of a hatred for one's own culture and a submission to white supremacy is that most immigrants don't even have the racial consciousness to figure out what all that could possibly mean)" (37). "There's something profound in this: an immigrant realizing her new country had no interest in her writing, while pushing her children to take up the profession because she believed things would be different for them" (42). "We hold up a story, whether On the Road or Johnny Tremain or even The Joy Luck Club, and try to match the edges to the contours of our lives. And even though no narrative feels particularly relevant, there's an ingrained optimism that forces you to keep trying them on" (46). "I am talking about books because they, much more than growing up as an inconvenient minority, formed my thinking and writing about race. I was learning about Black people from stories and not from the Black people who lived in my town and attended my schools but who somehow never ended up in the same classes. There's nothing novel about these twin segregations--the people separated from one another, and ideas of liberation and equality separated from the actual institutions in which they are taught--but they also aren't all-encompassing" (63). "This is an alluring narrative, but it elides one crucial question" How do you actually become white if you've never felt white a day in your life or, as is the case for millions of Asian Americans who do not participate in the race-making narratives of this country, if you never wanted to be white in the first place?" (78). "The new demographics of the country have opened up hundreds of small, but deeply felt, inequalities and communalities, each with its own word contraptions like "microaggressions" and "intersectionality," and the confounding "Black and brown folk," which sometimes includes Asian people and sometimes feels as if it has been specifically constructed to exclude them" (134). "Of all these revelations, perhaps the only one that still seems interesting was the understanding that in my life, "people of color" did not mean all "un-white people," but rather the multicultural coalition of the upwardly mobile and overeducated. For us, assimilation was an issue of class; "whiteness" meant the ability to slide into a place where everyone was doing well enough to celebrate their differences" (218). "She, in other words, will have to betray her father's anxieties over belonging and identity and step into something that I do not understand" (219). "The nationalist message is clearer: We are a people who face oppression like all other minority groups. The rooftop Koreans acknowledge correctly that Asian Americans have no real allies. As such, they want to ensure that the meritocratic avenues in this country stay open for our people" (231). "To find a meaningful place in politics, one that doesn't require us to lie about "white adjacency" or ignore the pain of everyone who looks like us, upwardly mobile Asian Americans must drop our neuroses about microaggressions and the bamboo ceiling, and fully align ourselves with the forgotten Asian America: the refugees, the undocumented, and the working class..Naked self-interest and narcissism do not inspire solidarity" (232). "But everyone is always trying to make a comfortable life for their daughters" (235). Do we, the fortunate, forget about all that messy homeland history and set our sights on a comfortable place in an increasingly multicultural elite with all its requisite hand-wringing about the less fortunate? Or can we figure out a way to break our abiding belief in American progress and find a new identity rooted in the economic and social concerns of the millions of working-class immigrants who have lost their livelihoods during this pandemic? The future of the country depends, in large part, on the stories we choose" (238).

  29. 4 out of 5

    Jessica

    “This book is about that desperate need to find oneself within the narrative of a country that would write you out of it. When I say Asians are the loneliest Americans, I am not conjuring up a vision of an ancient, weather-beaten man playing a one string violin by the window of a Chinatown tenement. Rather, I am talking about the loneliness that comes from attempts to assimilate, whether by melting into the white middle class or by creating an elaborate, yet ultimately derivative, racial ‘identi “This book is about that desperate need to find oneself within the narrative of a country that would write you out of it. When I say Asians are the loneliest Americans, I am not conjuring up a vision of an ancient, weather-beaten man playing a one string violin by the window of a Chinatown tenement. Rather, I am talking about the loneliness that comes from attempts to assimilate, whether by melting into the white middle class or by creating an elaborate, yet ultimately derivative, racial ‘identity.’” The Loneliest Americans is a mixture of memoir, history, and race. It explores and critiques America’s racial binary, and the erasure of other ethnic groups. What does it mean to be Asian in a Black and white country? This book is very thought-provoking, and it will definitely shake you up and make you reflect on identity and politics. If you’re tired of boba liberalism, read it. Kang’s argument is that surface-level politics that center people with higher levels of privilege (in terms of class, ethnicity, or background) fail to prioritize and help the most marginalized. He argues that our efforts for social justice and advocacy should center the poor, immigrants, and undocumented people. The author draws on his Korean American background; I appreciate how he wrote of his specific Korean experience instead of trying to trying to write a pan-ethnic narrative to describe or fit all Asian American perspectives. He acknowledges East Asians who may have privilege in background, education, or family wealth. While some may find his voice blunt and abrasive, I appreciated his honesty. Earlier this year people kept saying, “Include Asians in your anti-racism,” which is true. But why are Asians excluded from anti-racism and historical learning in the first place? Why did it take nearly a year for news outlets to cover anti-Asian hate crimes. Why did influencers and celebrities not speak up until the Atlanta massacres? Why were “not racist” white people who were going hard for Black Lives Matter or have a BLM profile highlight not say a word or have a similar highlight about Stop Asian Hate? Why is their anti-racism and “activism” selective? Why does it feel like we are still shouting into the void trying to get people to care and *still* care about our community when it’s usually only Asians and other POC who are listening. Or as Daniel Dae Kim put it, “Within the echo chamber of our own community.” The author discusses the vagueness of being Asian American, and I know that I myself have felt this vagueness and erasure. From lack of representation (especially for Southeast Asians/South/West Asians) to the omission and exclusion of our history. Kang also criticizes and points out the harm of Asian Americans who desire to assimilate through “proximity to whiteness.” We should not be measuring ourselves or other POC groups through an emulation of whiteness, because it puts whiteness on a pedestal and is a further iteration of white supremacy. Whiteness should not be our measuring stick and that is not what we should strive for. The model minority myth, and lack of visibility beyond the upper class or more common East Asian representation in media, has effectively invisibilized the large population of Asian Americans who are living in poverty, working class, or not of East Asian origin. This book also examines and interrogates the term “people of color.” The term itself sets a precedent and almost seems to imply that people of *no* color is the default and the norm. Reframing how we think is essential to stop centering whiteness—and how it infiltrates even our language. I’ve seen some use “people of the global majority.” Instead of “people of color” as opposed to people without color. One complaint I had with this book is that the author sometimes generalizes or reduces/oversimplifies the political attitudes of Asian Americans to this: either striving for whiteness or engaging in shallow representation politics. He fails to mention that there are progressive Asian Americans and activists who do center the most marginalized such as Michelle MiJung Kim and Kim Saira. And while he criticizes the boba liberalism of wealthy, more privileged East Asians, the book does not really include any stories or perspectives of those who are not upper middle class and East Asian. However he makes many great points in this book. Kang points out that Asian American politics that don’t move or strive past representation are shallow and there is truth in that. We need material change. We have to decolonize our minds and take a more “radical” approach for ending white supremacy and all that is intersected with it—capitalism, wealth inequality, and patriarchy. He reiterates that we must move past musing on identity and simply “show up.” This book also discusses how there is a lack of shared history between Asian Americans to unite us. How there is a history of oppression and war between different Asian countries and people as well. And how Asian Americans are still viewed through the model minority myth, even though we have the largest wealth gap of any minority group. The Loneliest Americans is a must-read and I highly recommend it to anyone who is exploring and searching to define/understand Asian American identity in the context of politics and history.

  30. 4 out of 5

    C

    I’ve read a handful of books that are both memoirs and socio-historical-political-cultural explorations of topics relating to author’s own life experiences. The ones that stand out to me do so because of the quality of the writing, the compelling narrative, the clear explanations of complicated ideas, and the way the author connected the dots between his/her life experiences with larger socio-cultural-political systems. Examples include Jose Antonio Vargas’ “Dear America: Notes of an Undocumente I’ve read a handful of books that are both memoirs and socio-historical-political-cultural explorations of topics relating to author’s own life experiences. The ones that stand out to me do so because of the quality of the writing, the compelling narrative, the clear explanations of complicated ideas, and the way the author connected the dots between his/her life experiences with larger socio-cultural-political systems. Examples include Jose Antonio Vargas’ “Dear America: Notes of an Undocumented Citizen,” Casey Gerald’s “There Will Be No Miracles Here,” Cathy Park Hong’s “Minor Feelings: An Asian American Reckoning,” and JD Vance’s “Hillbilly Elegy.” I think JCK tried to do what those authors did but didn’t succeed. The memoir and family history parts are objectively pretty interesting but were told in a rambling yet intense way which didn’t keep my attention. JCK has a lot of angst and complicated feelings about what “Asian American” means, and says the term is too broad and nebulous to be useful, ultimately leaving so-called Asian Americans lonely in that identity term. I somewhat agree, but was left wondering, what exactly is the end goal of tearing down stereotypes and misinterpretations of so-called Asian Americanness, if the author isn’t offering anything to build up a better society and politics? The book was a lot of tearing down without building up—and I’m not saying every exploration of racial and social inequity discourse has to end with suggestions about hope and perseverance, but assuming JCK’s readers are interested in building a better world for Asian Americans and all others, it might help readers to do that by offering tangible, concrete examples—simple and challenging alike—of what a better Asian-Americanness might look like. The book read kind of like a chaotic rant of someone who feels really, REALLY strongly about something which maybe 100 other people in America also might feel strongly, but then cops out at the end by not helping readers imagine what a different world could look like. JCK also writes a lot about Asian American’s assimilation and relationship to whiteness, but he never defines what he means when he says “assimilation” and “whiteness.” For having spent so much space writing about these topics, I was really disappointed he never unpacked what these terms mean to him, why they’re worth focusing on, and what he is trying to accomplish by focusing on these terms. I felt he needed to connect the dots more. He also basically doesn’t spend much time on people who aren’t East-Asian American, which I thought was a huge oversight considering the large numbers of Filipino, South and Southeast Asian people in the US. TLDR: JCK thinks “Asian American” isn’t a great term because his and his families’ unique experiences are too complicated in their individuality and simultaneously byproducts of world historical/political events to be properly encompassed by the term “Asian American.” That makes sense, but also felt to me like a banal point because I’m pretty sure nearly every single person who spends time meditating on their racial identity feels this way in regards to their ever-evolving relationship with their racial/cultural identities (assuming they even ponder it half as hard as JCK). Overall, I was kind of disappointed and underwhelmed for the reasons listed above but also appreciated the book because it challenged me and brought me to consider JCK’s point of view.

Add a review

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Loading...