What is race for? That question animates every page of The Accidental Asian, a powerful work from one of the nation's leading young voices. In these personal and poignant reflections, assimilation became clear for Liu when he tried to read a memorial book about his father's life, composed in Chinese, and found himself staring at a blur of indecipherable characters. There in his hands was the measure of his inheritance. Liu, meanwhile, has watched with both wonder and concern as a pan-ethnic Asian-American identity has taken shape. Here now is a race that offers a new source of roots—but also tightens the hold that color has upon our minds. Like so many in the second generation, Liu doesn't know whether to embrace, resist, or redefine assimilation—and ends up doing all three at once. He speaks candidly about his journey from a fierce pursuit of racelessness to a slow rapprochement with race. He is not afraid to reveal his ambivalence. At bottom, Liu is an "accidental Asian"—someone who has stumbled upon a sense of race, who is not always sure what to do with it.
Weaving narrative and analysis into a series of elegant essays, Liu addresses a broad range of questions:
: Is whiteness America's fundamental race problem?
: Are Asian Americans really the New Jews?
: Should we fear the rising might of China?What does a journey through Chinatown reveal about our own lives?
: What might intermarriage mean for Asian-Americans—and for the future of race itself?
The clear voice in these pages will resonate with Americans of every cultural and political background. Beyond black and white, conservative and liberal, native and alien, lies a vast and fertile field of human experience. It is this field that Liu, with insight and compassion, invites us to explore.
PRAISE FOR THE ACCIDENTAL ASIAN
"Eric Liu has written a powerful memoir, a memoir that renders the Asian American experience with a depth and a passion reminiscent of Richard Wright's Black Boy. It is a major contribution to the literature that defines what it means to be an American."
—Henry Louis Gates, Jr.
"The Accidental Asian is an intelligent, moving and painfully instructive story of an Asian American life, and will certainly become essential reading for all those who would ask what is the face—and heart—of an imminent America."
—Chang-rae Lee, author of Native Speaker
"Incisive, balanced, and frank, The Accidental Asian deals persuasively with the often overlooked struggles Asian Americans face in defining their identity in the turbulent American landscape. . . . Provocative musings on the subjects of race and identity."
"[This book] provides a perspective on race often ignored in America's black-white conversation. It is in part a collection of essays on racial identity and the place in American life occupied by the 10 million Americans who claim Asian descent. But it is also a family narrative: the story of Liu's immigrant Chinese parents and their assimilation into American society, and Liu's own struggle to transcend his race while not selling out his heritage. The result is a unique—and uniquely American—memoir, suffused with smarts, elegance and warmth."