Because hers is a quasi-morality tale of the victory of tolerant reformers over bigoted obstructionists, Yang detours around the central irony in her historical account: that two of the most significant provisions of the 1965 act, the opening of doors to Asian immigrants (including her father) and the closing of them, through the imposition of quotas, to Latin Americans, principally Mexicans, were not part of the reformers’ agenda during the 40-year 'epic struggle' that is the subject of her book ... While 'we tend to describe immigrants’ stories as feats of will and strokes of destiny,' Yang reminds us, 'it is not destiny that brings a family here but politics.' This is a message worth noting as we approach November.
Jia Lynn Yang pans wide across the often overlooked 40-year battle to overhaul racist and restrictive immigration laws passed in the early 20th century ... Yang...digs into the tectonic geopolitical shifts that led to the law’s passage. Along the way, she reminds her audience that the current president’s divisive and at times racist, anti-immigrant rhetoric is hardly an outlier in American history ... Yang sketches lively portraits of the famous and obscure players behind the legislative fights ... As...Yang demonstrate[s], it will inevitably require a reckoning with both the history and the present story we tell ourselves about America being a nation of immigrants.
... readable and at times enthralling ... the real energy of this volume comes from the drive for the comprehensive overhaul that was in large measure a redemption of the original American immigration dream ... Yang has written a captivating account, full of personality and drama — and significance. In our time, with fresh contention over immigration, it is worth reading to the last page.
This is very much a journalist’s account. Ms. Yang is disturbed to learn that, until very recently, many prominent Americans held views on race, nationality and an ideal social order that we now consider distasteful. And while she is wise to confine her timeline to the past century, the history is imparted through the stories of political participants whose lives are now mostly forgotten or altogether too well known: John, Robert and Edward Kennedy. This can get a little tedious at times ... Ms. Yang’s framework, however, is instructive ... Ms. Yang, whose approach is admirably thorough if not always even-handed, is good at highlighting the cross-currents of policy in [the Cold War] era.
... a timely contribution to the discussion. In effect, this book could be considered a prequel and starting point for said debate as it provides a history and prior basis for what has been effectively an ongoing argument for well over 125 years as to who is worthy of admittance to our country and inclusion in what is rapidly becoming a true and absolute melting pot and a multicultural and multipluralist society today ... The cast of characters in this fight is extensive. For those somewhat younger, they probably won't mean a thing, yet for the older reader, there will be many familiar names of politicians, academics, and others that will make the story seem like a trip down memory lane ... As author Yang is not a historian but a New York Times deputy national security editor, the endnotes are the type that reference a quote or expression on a specific page in the text. She has, however, done extensive research in archives, presidential libraries, newspapers, government documents, and other relevant sources that demonstrate a decided grasp of her subject, notwithstanding her own personal family immigration tale ... If there is any criticism to be made, it is that there are no photographs of any of those personages (Harry Truman, JFK, LBJ, etc.) or locations that are so important as context to providing points of reference. That would seem to be a bit of a mystery ... Nonetheless, this is an interesting as well as important narrative of a subject relevant to our society today.
A clear, well-crafted historical overview of U.S. immigration, and the people who shaped it. Yang defines the issues these debates raised but never settled in a way that informs without overwhelming readers.
With immigration a continuous topic in nearly every national conversation, journalist and editor Yang’s compelling history could not be more timely. Wielding tightly crafted prose, she looks back to the last time this subject was a political flashpoint, taking readers on a dramatic journey through the shifting sands of public opinion in mid-twentieth-century America ... There are villains aplenty here and relatively few dedicated heroes and the author does not shy away from the ugliness of anti-immigration rhetoric which has, in more than one case, resulted in death. The combination of meticulous research and captivating writing creates a beautiful surprise; a dark history that gleams under the spotlight of unvarnished truthtelling. Expect a lot of reader requests and award attention for this significant title.
...excellent ... Throughout her important story, Yang highlights human and political drama, from the histrionics of racists to the political machinations of Harry Truman, John F. Kennedy, and Lyndon Johnson on behalf of the displaced and others. The author also reveals the roles of unsung heroes like White House aide Mike Feldman, who shaped JFK’s message in A Nation of Immigrants. Yang illuminates the little-known, 'transformative' 1965 law that spurred demographic changes expected to result in a nonwhite majority in America within a few decades ... Critical in understanding today’s immigration issues.
Journalist Yang chronicles four decades of American immigration legislation and reform in her sober and well-researched debut ... Yang’s comprehensive and easy-to-follow record of a crucial period in the evolution of U.S. immigration policy sheds light on the political, cultural, and historical considerations behind this contentious issue. Readers seeking insights into contemporary proposals to reform the system will find plenty in this lucid account.