I’ve finished the primary draft of a nonfiction project near and dear to my heart: turning a scholarly work on the history of American immigration into a book for young readers.
The book is A Different Mirror: A History of Multicultural America, by Ronald Takaki, who was a leading scholar of immigration history and a professor of ethnic studies at the University of California at Berkeley. The young people’s adaptation, which I have based very closely on Professor Takaki’s original text, will be called A Different Mirror for Young People.
This project has been special for me for two reasons.
First, most textbooks in U.S. history classes spend little time on the great waves of immigration that shaped this country. Textbooks often ignore the relationships among immigrant and ethnic groups, or between immigrants and native-born Americans. Takaki’s book focuses on how different ethnic and racial groups of immigrants cooperated, competed, and were pitted against each other by politicians and employers. It also looks at the experiences that different immigrant groups shared–the ways the groups were similar, and also the ways in which each group was unique.
Second, I not only admired and respected Ron Takaki as a scholar, I cared for him as a friend. I was lucky to get to know Ron and his wife and colleague, Carol, years ago, when I turned another one of his books into a multivolume series on Asian American history for kids. The Takakis’ warmth, generosity, and passion for learning and communicating were inspiring. We remained friends, and I was always delighted to see them when our paths crossed.
Ron died in 2009. His work touched the lives of many students, teachers, and readers. I know it would please him enormously to know that A Different Mirror will soon be available to young readers.