• The Loneliest Americans

  • By: Jay Caspian Kang
  • Narrated by: Intae Kim
  • Length: 7 hrs and 33 mins
  • 4.5 out of 5 stars (81 ratings)

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Publisher's Summary

ONE OF THE BEST BOOKS OF THE YEAR: Time, NPR, Mother Jones • “[Kang’s] exploration of class and identity among Asian Americans will be talked about for years to come.”—Jennifer Szalai, The New York Times Book Review 

“A smart, vulnerable, and incisive exploration of what it means for this brilliant and honest writer—a child of Korean immigrants—to assimilate and aspire while being critical of his membership in his community of origin, in his political tribe, and in America.”—Min Jin Lee, author of Pachinko 

In 1965, a new immigration law lifted a century of restrictions against Asian immigrants to the United States. Nobody, including the lawmakers who passed the bill, expected it to transform the country’s demographics. But over the next four decades, millions arrived, including Jay Caspian Kang’s parents, grandparents, aunts, and uncles. They came with almost no understanding of their new home, much less the history of “Asian America” that was supposed to define them.

The Loneliest Americans is the unforgettable story of Kang and his family as they move from a housing project in Cambridge to an idyllic college town in the South and eventually to the West Coast. Their story unfolds against the backdrop of a rapidly expanding Asian America, as millions more immigrants, many of them working-class or undocumented, stream into the country. At the same time, upwardly mobile urban professionals have struggled to reconcile their parents’ assimilationist goals with membership in a multicultural elite—all while trying to carve out a new kind of belonging for their own children, who are neither white nor truly “people of color.”

Kang recognizes this existential loneliness in himself and in other Asian Americans who try to locate themselves in the country’s racial binary. There are the businessmen turning Flushing into a center of immigrant wealth; the casualties of the Los Angeles riots; the impoverished parents in New York City who believe that admission to the city’s exam schools is the only way out; the men’s right’s activists on Reddit ranting about intermarriage; and the handful of protesters who show up at Black Lives Matter rallies holding “Yellow Peril Supports Black Power” signs. Kang’s exquisitely crafted book brings these lonely parallel climbers together amid a wave of anti-Asian violence. In response, he calls for a new form of immigrant solidarity—one rooted not in bubble tea and elite college admissions but in the struggles of refugees and the working class.

©2021 Jay Caspian Kang (P)2021 Random House Audio

What listeners say about The Loneliest Americans

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  • Overall
    3 out of 5 stars
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    2 out of 5 stars

interesting read, not my own personal story

I'm a first generation Asian American and shared many similarities with the author. While we shared many similar struggles, I did not approach my problems with the same discontent and ranting as the author. He came from a rich/high middle class background with well educated parents. I came from a poor working background with little to nothing. While like the author stated how we are viewed the same by white and black people, we are yet very different. I grew up in the deep south which had challenges that the author never faced. I didn't know English like the author. While racism was a problem for me, I didn't categorized the events as a white or black or Latino issue. I think it's a good read but like many products from other race raging colored author. It's their side of the world but it's not part of everyone's world. DHT

14 people found this helpful

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    5 out of 5 stars
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    5 out of 5 stars

You should read this (even if you're not Asian)

Part memoir, part thoughtful examination of what "Asian American" means and whether anybody cares. This book delves into questions for which there aren't many clear-cut answers. You should read this, especially if you're not Asian.

7 people found this helpful

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An Honest Accounting of Asian-American Identity

If you would like to get a glimpse of the honest reflections and private thoughts that any Asian-American with two brain cells surely has had on occasion -- then get this book. If you are an Asian-American that finds yourself feeling the hollowness of all the fruits that society has promised or struggle to situate yourself in a complex pyramid of injustice -- then buy this book.

Jay Caspian Kang seems to be divisive; one can plot out the kind of professionalized, NGO-style activists, cliques of writers, and media personalities that will certainly rail against this book. Why? Because it doesn't follow the now familiar stenography of upwardly mobile Asians and their radicalism of primarily form. As such, Kang's writing suffers the digressions and conflicts of everyday life rather than the perfectly planned woke speeches we have all come to glaze over during marches, media interviews, and the like.

This isn't to say that in the space between memoir doesn't hold well-researched, thoughtful, and sympathetic portraits of Asian-American history as we know it -- ranging from the origin of the term, the International Hotel, the building of FLushing, K-town, and the like. Despite exploring a wide array of subjects and pushing the edges of conventional wisdom, Kang is nothing if not sympathetic.

JCK asks upwardly mobile Asians to essentially commit themselves to becoming class traitors within the context of the US--a nation which has never ceased in its brutally one-sided class war and which has never truly reckoned with the ceaseless racism towards Blacks. He asks for us to betray the masters of capital not for a sense of abstract morality but rather to embrace a broader immigrant community--much of which lives on the fringes of society and often in poverty.

This is where one of the more reasonable critiques of the book comes. When being asked to side with the poor most people come to expect the subjects of the book to be representative. JCK has stated this more-or-less fell out of the scope of this book, and it seems a reasonable. That being said, a lot of the individual portraits are of upwardly mobile Asians -- which includes JCK himself (a fact he will cop to easily and often).

While this book does not push the boundaries of academic scholarship, radical thought, or reveal a secret asian history to unlock a rapturous radical front -- it does make an intervention (perhaps even a plea) to the kinds of upwardly mobile Asians that have the income, time, and wherewithal to naval gaze on identity to perhaps consider a better use of their time (when they are ready). These kind of people are real and so is there confusion. If they are left to imbibe the Gospels of Jeff Yang or the tired histories of Asian Studies professors -- then truly Asian-American identity as project will surely collapse into a fate ostensibly worse than the Irish becoming white.

6 people found this helpful

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Great story, narrator’s gotta chill

Narrator is way too breathy and dramatic, doesn’t match JCK’s style at all. Really unnecessary and distracting.

4 people found this helpful

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  • 03-04-22

Much food for thought

I wish Mr. Kang narrated his own work. Mr. Kim's pace was so slow, I had to set the audio speed at 1.25 in order to listen. I heard Mr. Kang on a NYT podcast, which is how I came to buy the audiobook. I really wanted to hear his voice on this.

The topic is interesting unless you have no interest in race, politics and culture. I learned many new things and am prompted to follow-up on these issues further. This is my first book on the Asian American male perspective. I feel compelled to ask my son whether he's familiar with the Reddit pages on AA male angst, but will probably just hack his internet history like a good Asian mom. I find the idea of toxic AA masculinity frightening given the context raised in this book. It doesn't make sense to me as an Asian woman and mother. It's really toxic masculinity without race needing to be brought into the mix.

3 people found this helpful