Distant Islands is a modern narrative history of the Japanese American community in New York City between America's centennial year and the Great Depression of the 1930s. Often overshadowed in historical literature by the Japanese diaspora on the West Coast, this community, which dates back to the 1870s, has its own fascinating history.
The New York Japanese American community was a composite of several micro communities divided along status, class, geographic, and religious lines. Using a wealth of primary sources—oral histories, memoirs, newspapers, government documents, photographs, and more—Daniel H. Inouye tells the stories of the business and professional elites, mid-sized merchants, small business owners, working-class families, menial laborers, and students that made up these communities. The book presents new knowledge about the history of Japanese immigrants in the United States and makes a novel and persuasive argument about the primacy of class and status stratification and relatively weak ethnic cohesion and solidarity in New York City, compared to the pervading understanding of nikkei on the West Coast. While a few prior studies have identified social stratification in other nikkei communities, this book presents the first full exploration of the subject and additionally draws parallels to divisions in German American communities.
Distant Islands is a unique and nuanced historical account of an American ethnic community that reveals the common humanity of pioneering Japanese New Yorkers despite diverse socioeconomic backgrounds and life stories. It will be of interest to general readers, students, and scholars interested in Asian American studies, immigration and ethnic studies, sociology, and history.
Winner- Honorable Mention, 2018 Immigration and Ethnic History Society First Book Award