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Publisher's Summary

Upon its first publication, A Different Mirror was hailed by critics and academics everywhere as a dramatic new retelling of our nation's past. Beginning with the colonization of the New World, it recounts the history of America in the voice of the non-Anglo peoples of the United States---Native Americans, African Americans, Jews, Irish Americans, Asian Americans, Latinos, and others---groups who helped create this country's rich mosaic culture. From the role of black soldiers in preserving the Union to the history of Chinese Americans from 1900 to 1941, from an investigation into the issue of "illegal" immigrants from Mexico to a look at the sudden visibility of Muslim refugees from Afghanistan, Takaki's work is a remarkable achievement that grapples with the raw truth of American history and examines the ultimate question of what it means to be an American.
©1993 Carol Takaki (P)2011 Tantor
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Critic Reviews

"A valuable survey of the American experience of several racial and ethnic minorities: readable popular history in the mode of Takaki's Strangers from a Different Shore." ( Kirkus)
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Customer Reviews

Most Helpful
5 out of 5 stars
By R.S. on 05-16-11

A Necessary Mirror

This is an excellent book which provides a fascinating account of the many minorities, their attitudes, and the struggles, prejudices, hostilities and as well as acceptances encountered over a wide span of U.S. history. As immigrants to the United States from Mexico and other lands today face increasingly shrill hostility and restrictive laws, "A Different Mirror" is a necessary mirror that reflects a history that has been missed, if not entirely left out of the discussions about immigration and multiculturalism and the conventional historical narrative, or whatever exists thereof. Needless to say, this is a book which is sure to engender humility and compassion. It deserves a large audience. Although at the very start the production sounded a bit tinny, the sound quality and reading turned out to be exceptionally good.

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5 of 5 people found this review helpful

3 out of 5 stars
By Michael on 04-02-17

All mirrors distort

This is book attempts to look at US history through a different mirror by focusing upon the history of various minorities. This (like all histories) distorts in its own way. Perhaps, once upon a time, the history of minorities in the US was not covered in K-12 histories, but for decades (at least in California where I graduated high school in 1976) this has no longer been the case. Most of this material was covered back then, and covered in a more integrated way. In this book, the history is not integrated, it focuses largely on the inequities suffered by minorities, instead of a broad swath including the inequities along with the many scientific, technical, cultural, artistic, and political contributions of minorities. I thus felt this was less compelling than the best of histories. Every American should know, and understand, the inequities suffered by minorities, but this should be understood within a broad context.

In the book's foreword the author (of Japanese ancestry and born in the US with several generations in the US) was asked by a white taxi driver how long he had been in this country and he was told that his English was excellent. It seems one intent for this book was to educate people like this taxi driver. If that was the goal, I think this book misses the mark. I think such education is better done through more inclusive and integrated histories, personal stories like Coates' "Between the World and Me", and inclusion of non-stereotyped characters in popular entertainment. It was telling to me that the author proposed to cover race and ethnicity inclusively, then goes on to list the races to be covered (which was not quite an inclusive list).

The author also repeatedly uses the character of Caliban from Shakespeare's The Tempest as a symbol of the European marginalization of non-European people. The Tempest is my favorite of Shakespeare's plays, and I have always felt the play is about how Prospero must integrate his Caliban, and his Arial, within himself, to become fully human and reintegrate back into the wider world. For me, The Tempest is an early example of modern inclusionism, not an example of European exclusionism.

Given all of the above, this is still a decent, if not great, read. I learned a few things, the prose were good, and the history was factual (if limited scope).

The narration was very good.

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1 of 1 people found this review helpful

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