BY ERIC LIU
NEW YORK:VINTAGE BOOKS, 1999
224 PAGES. PAPERBACK: ISBN 0-375-70486-8
Thought-provoking, nuanced, and easy to read, the book’s central point is that we should begin “to conceive of assimilation as more than a series of losses—and to recognize that what is lost is not necessarily sacred.”
As the title hints, this book is about Asian-Americans and the issue of assimilation. More broadly, it is about the nature and role of race and ethnic identity in American society. A slim volume of seven essays of social commentary mingled with (and in large part told through) personal and family narratives, The Accidental Asian was named Notable Book of 1998 by the New York Times. Its author, Eric Liu, is an American born son of immigrant parents from Taiwan. Raised in a comfortable, largely white suburb in Poughkeepsie, New York, and married to a Caucasian American, Liu’s Chinese ethnicity was no barrier to professional success in America. Twenty-nine years old at the time of the book’s writing, Liu had already chalked up impressive credentials: graduate of Yale, former speechwriter for President Clinton, television commentator on MSNBC, and student at Harvard Law School.