Illegal Immigrants/Model Minorities

The Cold War of Chinese American Narrative

Heidi Kim
Book Cover

PB: $34.95
EAN: 978-1-4399-1902-6
Publication: Mar 21

HC: $110.50
EAN: 978-1-4399-1901-9
Publication: Mar 21

Ebook: $34.95
EAN: 978-1-4399-1903-3
Publication: Mar 21

242 pages
6 x 9
1 tables, 4 halftones

Examines how Chinese American writers sought to address Cold War–driven official narratives in literature, mass media, and law

Read the Introduction (pdf).


In the Cold War era, Chinese Americans were caught in a double-bind. The widespread stigma of illegal immigration, as it was often called, was most easily countered with the model minority, assimilating and forming nuclear families, but that in turn led to further stereotypes. In Illegal Immigrants/Model Minorities, Heidi Kim investigates how Chinese American writers navigated a strategy to normalize and justify the Chinese presence during a time when fears of Communism ran high.

Kim explores how writers like Maxine Hong Kingston, Jade Snow Wong, and C. Y. Lee, among others, addressed issues of history, family, blood purity, and law through then-groundbreaking novels and memoirs. Illegal Immigrants/Model Minorities also uses legal cases, immigration documents, and law as well as mass media coverage to illustrate how writers constructed stories in relation to the political structures that allowed or disallowed their presence, their citizenship, and their blended identity.

Kim illuminates the rapidly shifting political and social pressures on Chinese American authors who selectively concealed, revealed, and reconstructed issues of citizenship, belonging, and inclusion in their writing.

Table of Contents


Introduction: Illegal Immigration in the Cold War
1. Narrative Cold War: Public Faces of Chinese America
2 .Happy Families: Modeling the Minority in the Era of Immigration Reform
3. Blood Tells: The Attack on Chinese American Family Ties
4. History, through Literature: Rewriting the Past after the Confession Era
Epilogue: The Failure of the Model Minority Narrative?


About the Author(s)

Heidi Kim is Associate Professor of English and Comparative Literature at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. She is the author of Invisible Subjects: Asian Americans in Postwar Literature and editor of Taken from the Paradise Isle: The Hoshida Family Story.


In the Series

  • Asian American History and Culture edited by Cathy Schlund-Vials, Rick Bonus, and Shelley Sang-Hee Lee

    Founded by Sucheng Chan in 1991, the Asian American History and Culture series has sponsored innovative scholarship that has redefined, expanded, and advanced the field of Asian American studies while strengthening its links to related areas of scholarly inquiry and engaged critique. Like the field from which it emerged, the series remains rooted in the social sciences and humanities, encompassing multiple regions, formations, communities, and identities. Extending the vision of founding editor Sucheng Chan and emeriti editor Michael Omi, David Palumbo-Liu, K. Scott Wong and Linda Trinh Võ, series editors Cathy Schlund-Vials, Rick Bonus, and Shelley Sang-Hee Lee continue to develop a foundational collection that embodies a range of theoretical and methodological approaches to Asian American studies.