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Becoming Asian American

Second-Generation Chinese and Korean American Identities

In Becoming Asian American, Nazli Kibria draws upon extensive interviews she conducted with second-generation Chinese and Korean Americans in Boston and Los Angeles who came of age during the 1980s and 1990s to explore the dynamics of race, identity, and adaptation within these communities. Moving beyond the frameworks created to study other racial minorities and ethnic whites, she examines the various strategies used by members of this group to define themselves as both Asian and American.

In her discussions on such topics as childhood, interaction with non-Asian Americans, college, work, and the problems of intermarriage and child-raising, Kibria finds wide discrepancies between the experiences of Asian Americans and those described in studies of other ethnic groups. While these differences help to explain the unusually successful degree of social integration and acceptance into mainstream American society enjoyed by this "model minority," it is an achievement that Kibria's interviewees admit they can never take for granted. Instead, they report that maintaining this acceptance "requires constant effort on their part." Kibria suggests further developments may resolve this situation—especially the emergence of a new kind of pan–Asian American identity that would complement the Chinese or Korean American identity rather than replace it.

About the Author

Nazli Kibria is an associate professor of sociology at Boston University.


"Kibria's extensive interviews of Chinese Americans and Korean Americans in Boston and Los Angeles in the 1980s and '90s make for an incredibly familiar and enlightening title."

- Terry Hong - AsianWeek

"A good overview of the issues and experiences prevalent among more acculturated Asian Americans and how they negotiate and forge new racial and ethnic identities."

- William Ming Liu - Journal of College Student Development

"For scholars of ethnicity, the Asian diaspora, immigration, and sociologists of race, this book is filled with a number of illuminating empirical findings and theoretical advances."

- Jonathan W. Warren - American Journal of Sociology

"With its detailed analysis and lucid text, Becoming Asian American adds a rich case study to the growing sub-field of ethnic and racial studies: the sociology of second-generation immigrants."

- Keiko Yamanaka - Ethnic and Racial Studies


"Nazli Kibria is one of the outstanding scholars on the sociology of Asian Americans, as well as in the general field of sociology of race and ethnicity. Becoming Asian American greatly advances knowledge of the dynamic interaction of race, ethnicity, and individual identity in American life. Her case studies offer a fresh, solid approach to discovering what it is like for immigrant racial minorities to become American in our time and indicates a great deal about the future of the American nation."

- Reed Ueda, Tufts University

"Nazli Kibria presents a rich body of interview data on the changing and diverse nature of Asian-American identity, particularly among Chinese and Korean Americans, making a very solid and sustained contribution to the burgeoning literature within Asian-American studies. Through Kibria's wonderful interviews, we hear very interesting meditations on ethnic identity. She also does a good job of raising important sociological questions about race and immigration. This book may very well become a landmark in the field."

- John Lie, University of Michigan
Johns Hopkins University Press
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9780801877445 : becoming-asian-american-kibria
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232 Pages
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