Madeline Hsu, associate professor of history and director of the Center for Asian American Studies at the University of Texas at Austin, will be at CHSA Museum’s Main Gallery for a book talk on her book “The Good Immigrants: How the Yellow Peril Became the Model Minority.” Book talk is on August 6, from 6-7:30pm on Tuesday. The book examines shifts in immigration laws and perceptions of cultural traits that enabled Asians to remain in the United States as exemplary, productive Americans. Seats are limited. Please arrive early!
Conventionally, US immigration history has been understood through the lens of restriction and those who have been barred from getting in. In contrast, The Good Immigrants considers immigration from the perspective of Chinese elites—intellectuals, businessmen, and students—who gained entrance because of immigration exemptions. Exploring a century of Chinese migrations, Madeline Hsu looks at how the model minority characteristics of many Asian Americans resulted from US policies that screened for those with the highest credentials in the most employable fields, enhancing American economic competitiveness.
The earliest US immigration restrictions targeted Chinese people but exempted students as well as individuals who might extend America’s influence in China. Western-educated Chinese such as Madame Chiang Kai-shek became symbols of the US impact on China, even as they patriotically advocated for China’s modernization. World War II and the rise of communism transformed Chinese students abroad into refugees, and the Cold War magnified the importance of their talent and training. As a result, Congress legislated piecemeal legal measures to enable Chinese of good standing with professional skills to become citizens. Pressures mounted to reform American discriminatory immigration laws, culminating with the 1965 Immigration Act.
Filled with narratives featuring such renowned Chinese immigrants as I. M. Pei, The Good Immigrants examines the shifts in immigration laws and perceptions of cultural traits that enabled Asians to remain in the United States as exemplary, productive Americans.
Born in Missouri, Madeline Y. Hsu grew up traveling between Hong Kong, Taiwan, and Arkansas. She is currently an associate professor of history and director of the Center for Asian American Studies at the University of Texas at Austin. She is the author of Dreaming of Gold, Dreaming of Home: Transnationalism and Migration between the United States and South China, 1882-1943 (2000) and The Good Immigrants: How the Yellow Peril Became the Model Minority (2015). She also coedited, with Sucheng Chan, Chinese Americans and the Politics of Race and Culture (2008), and edited Chinese American Transnational Politics (2010), which features articles by the pioneering Chinese American historian Him Mark Lai. Her ongoing research projects explore ethnic food and entrepreneurship, the entwining of U.S. foreign relations with immigration law and racial ideologies, contemporary Taiwanese history, and Cold War refugee migrations and brain drains.