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The Loneliest Americans

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Jay Caspian Kang delves into the odd position of Asian Americans in the American landscape. He points out that America is centered around a Black and white dichotomy, leaving Asian Americans not fitting in with either group. I was also interested in his discussion of the varying groups of Asian Americans who have arrived to America over time and the great divide between those immigrating by choice and those by necessity. I am not an own voices reviewer, but I feel that I learned quite a bit.
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THE LONELIEST AMERICANS by Jay Caspian Kang is about the "desperate need to find oneself within the narrative of a country that would rather write you out of it." In his introduction, Kang says that the assimilating Asian "wants to become as white as white will allow" and "the loneliness comes from the realization that nobody, whether white or Black, really cares if we succeed." Drawing on his own family's experience, Kang reflects frequently on the differences in attitudes and experiences between generations. He comments, too, on the impact of class disparities between a multicultural elite and working-class immigrants and he muses about "a rarely discussed, but overlapping, history of how Jews and Asians have been treated by the elite institutions they hope to join." Returning to the concept of assimilation he describes an idea that transcends race: "the other paradox at the heart of immigrant strivers is that we work so that our children will become the spoiled children we despise." THE LONELIEST AMERICANS is a thought-provoking treatise worth reading.
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I enjoy reading Jay Caspian Kang's writing in the New York Times, so I wanted to read this book. This memoir leaves the reader with a lot to think about and for that I am grateful. Good solid writing... and a book I will revisit as there is a lot to absorb.
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This book was complicated to review. 
First off, I did enjoy it, I'd say 4/5 stars because while I did really like it, I still wanted more out of it. Some parts were great and I wish Kang went into further detail because I wanted to know more, and others felt underdeveloped or incomplete and could have been left out.
For context, I am Mexican/Korean-American. I think I struggled to understand who was intended to be Kang's target audience, and I don't think it was me. I appreciated the Marxist perspective and his points on working class solidarity, but felt it could have been stronger. Then again, I don't have an answer to what to add or improve.

To hand sell, it's definitely a book that leads to conversations. Good for a book group with its open-endedness. I ended up buying a copy and annotating it and I'll be loaning that annotated copy to my sister who will have her own [probably different!] thoughts on it.
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I had mixed feelings. I thought it was going to be a book about the wider Asian-American community but he shied away from that. He talks about the children of Hart-Celler,” Asians whose families came to the U.S. after 1965 when the Hart-Celler Act opened immigration to more than the wealthy, pirimarily white countries but then ends up only going into detail about the Chinese and Korean experience. I don't know. Maybe he should have just written a straight memoir? At times it was very dense but other times were puzzlingly lightweight.He seemed very conflicted personally and that distracted from what I think his message was supposed to be.
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This was a unique book as in it talked a lot about the disconnect between Asian-Americans and Black Americans. He speaks on some of the tensions he—as an Asian-american— has experienced and some about where it comes from.

He also speaks on the unique experience of the Asian experience in the United States with not fitting in with other minority groups because of their proximity to whiteness but their inability to achieve "whiteness" in the eyes of white people. 

It was an informative read. And I learned quite a bit from it.
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Really thought-provoking. At times the book waffled a bit too much between being a memoir and being an essay collection, and I do think it could have been stronger had it leaned more into one of those categories. I also think there are a lot of ideas presented here, particularly towards the end, that Capsian Kang himself is still grappling with, and so they did not feel as fleshed out and fully formed as they could have been. But then again, these are complex ideas! Either way, I enjoyed this and it made me want to dive into more writings on the modern history of East Asia and on cultural criticism by Asian Americans, which I would call a win! Finally, thank you to Crown Publishing for providing me with an early copy of this work, and apologies for not reviewing it sooner!
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By blending personal accounts with journalistic history, Kang provides an enthralling exploration of race in the United States. From his perspective as a child of Korean immigrants, Kang delves into what "Asian American" and "person of color" really means, in a country that defines race in black and white terms (literally). The times when Kang interweaved personal stories with history were the most compelling, while some of the straight history reports were a bit dry. He pokes fun at himself in a smart way, which I appreciate, as he dives into the ways in which children of Asian immigrants assimilate and become "more white" even while experiencing anti-Asian violence. This book should be added to the must-read books about race in America.
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An in depth personalized memoir/observations of race and class in America as witnessed by this Korean American popular journalist and several generations of his Korean family. He includes a potted history of anti-Asian legislation primarily in western US but rampant elsewhere as well and a reminder that Nationalism cuts both ways. Also prominent is a reminder that colored is also yellow (Asian), brown (Latinx), and red (North American Indigenous). Well done!
I requested and received a free ebook copy from Crown Publishing via NetGalley. Thank you!
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This was a very interesting and thought-provoking book - I learned a lot, in a way that had me talking to others about these concepts. Some chapters were stronger than others, but overall I felt this book was engaging and discussion worthy.
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I went into this book (The Loneliest Americans) without a lot of context but with an interest given the unconscionable increase of anti-Asian hate crimes since the pandemic. 

Jay Caspian Kang is likely best known for his long-form articles with the New York Times. He begins the book with an overview of immigration policy and then provides a mix of memoir and polemic. The book feels a bit unbalanced to me in execution, but I’m still glad I took the time to read it.

Many thanks to the author, publisher, and NetGalley for sharing this book with me. All thoughts are my own.
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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.
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The Loneliest Americans by Jay Caspian Kang is a fascinating blend of memoir and history documenting his experience and the history of many Asian Americans. As someone whose grandparents emigrated to the United States, I feel pretty separated from what they must have experienced, so I found it fascinating to consider what brings so many to the United States from other countries. Though lumped together, Asian Americans have come to the United States from very different home countries with a huge variety of experiences and traumas. 

Kang synthesizes a huge amount of information regarding politics and policies in the US and Asian countries. The “American Dream” has been so appealing to so many, while government action/interference from the US has directly lead to so many needing to leave their home countries in order to survive. The vast amount of dense information can be daunting at times, so I found myself re-reading certain parts to better grasp the myriad history lessons since Americans aren’t taught very much about Asian countries in school. 

Kang well illustrates the breadth of immigrant experiences and feeling of invisibility, loneliness, or not fitting in. With policy changes and who was accepted into the United States from other countries, it’s interesting to consider how Asian Americans tend to be put into two categories, either that of the successful students and professional that demonstrate “model minority” status, or the invisible working class and poor. Asian Americans are seen as sort of white, but not really white. Kang synthesizes US history including class, racism, misogyny, the civil rights movements, shifting immigration policies, and foreign policy and interference in Asian countries. 

The book could be a little meandering at times and I got a sense of uneasiness or existential dread from the author’s perspective. Though it could be a little hard to pin down as his perspective sometimes seemed a little vague or hard to describe. I definitely appreciated his viewpoint and considering perspectives and experiences very different from my own. Overall, fascinating and illuminating nonfiction. 

Thank you Crown Publishing and NetGalley for providing this ARC.
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This book was complicated. I finished it a while back, but felt uncomfortable with the way Kang discussed the Black and Latinx communities, as well as what he does (and doesn't) say about Asian women. An interesting book, but problematic in ways that make it hard for me to promote it.
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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.
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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.
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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.
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An interesting and very relevant book with the events of the past two years. Offering historical perspective and personal insight about where Asian Americans fit, or don't, within the spectrum of white America and the America made up of minorities. The complexity of assimilation and the erasure it entails, and of course the hideous years of the administration that used and manipulated fear of a virus in the most divisive way. This would make a good audio book and is a great book for discussion and to take an honest look at who we are as a society.
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Part memoir, part investigation into the place of immigrants in the United States, and part a look at the inaccuracy of considering all Asian Americans to be the same, this book has a lot to accomplish in its limited pages. Two things continually came to mind while reading this book. One I already had encountered previously. Most Americans view racism as a binary. You are the white majority or you are the Black minority. Many do not know how to deal with anyone that isn't on this binary. Kang writes "there is no meaningful, political way to deal with the pain and disappointment of being an Asian American, no answer for the exclusion you feel when everyone around you talks about racism and white supremacy and you know - at some visceral level - that you're not allowed to speak up." Thus, these members of our society are lost and alone in their attempts to work within a system that seems to discount their concerns. The second point that I felt was made very well was that any blanket statement about Asian Americans would result in a generic problematic stereotyping of those included. There are a multitude of countries and cultures that have been lumped together, and similar to the African tribes that kidnapped their enemies to sell to slave ships, these countries and cultures are not necessarily friends. I feel like there was a lot of room for more dialogue in the book. But I also felt like at points the writing became a bit too academic for the average reader. Either way, this book provides the reader a solid insight into an issue that seems to continually be missed when our country looks at itself and its racial practices.
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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.
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