Blue Dreams: Korean Americans and the Los Angeles Riots

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Overview

No one will soon forget the image, blazed across the airwaves, of armed Korean Americans taking to the rooftops as their businesses went up in flames during the Los Angeles riots. Why Korean Americans? What stoked the wrath the riots unleashed against them? Blue Dreams is the first book to make sense of these questions, to show how Korean Americans, variously depicted as immigrant seekers after the American dream or as racist merchants exploiting African Americans, emerged at the crossroads of conflicting social reflections in the aftermath of the 1992 riots.

The situation of Los Angeles's Korean Americans touches on some of the most vexing issues facing American society today: ethnic conflict, urban poverty, immigration, multiculturalism, and ideological polarization. Combining interviews and deft socio-historical analysis, Blue Dreams gives these problems a human face and at the same time clarifies the historical, political, and economic factors that render them so complex. In the lives and voices of Korean Americans, the authors locate a profound challenge to cherished assumptions about the United States and its minorities.

Why did Koreans come to the United States? Why did they set up shop in poor inner-city neighborhoods? Are they in conflict with African Americans? These are among the many difficult questions the authors answer as they probe the transnational roots and diversity of Los Angeles's Korean Americans. Their work finally shows us in sharp relief and moving detail a community that, despite the blinding media focus brought to bear during the riots, has nonetheless remained largely silent and effectively invisible. An important corrective to the formulaic accounts that have pitted Korean Americans against African Americans, Blue Dreams places the Korean American story squarely at the center of national debates over race, class, culture, and community.

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Editorial Reviews

Los Angeles Times

Blue Dreams—a poetic allusion to the clear blue sky that Koreans see as a symbol of freedom—is a welcome exploration by outsiders into the vexing and largely invisible Korean-American predicament in Los Angeles and the nation. [Abelmann and Lie 's] colorful interview subjects offer sharp observations.
— K.W. Lee

Times Literary Supplement

An informed and thoughtful examination of Korean immigration to the United States since 1970...[Abelmann and Lie] show that even in a period as short as twenty-five years, there have been successive waves of differently motivated, differently resourced Korean immigrants, and their experiences and reactions have differed accordingly.
— Michael Tonry

American Journal of Sociology

[The authors'] transnational perspective is particularly effective for explicating Korean immigrants' behaviors, activities, and feelings...Interesting and readable.
— Pyong Gap Min

International Migration Review

Beginning with a poetic book title, the authors recount in depth as to how the 'Blue Dreams' of the Korean-American merchants in East Los Angeles had shattered in the midst of [the] 1992 riot that turned out to be 'elusive dreams' in America...The book not only portrays the L.A. riot surrounding the Korean merchants, but also characterizes diaspora of the Koreans in America. The authors have also examined with scholarly insights the more complex socioeconomic and political underplay the Koreans encountered in their 'Promised New Land'.
— Eugene C. Kim

Los Angeles Times - K.W. Lee
Blue Dreams--a poetic allusion to the clear blue sky that Koreans see as a symbol of freedom--is a welcome exploration by outsiders into the vexing and largely invisible Korean-American predicament in Los Angeles and the nation. [Abelmann and Lie 's] colorful interview subjects offer sharp observations.
Times Literary Supplement - Michael Tonry
An informed and thoughtful examination of Korean immigration to the United States since 1970...[Abelmann and Lie] show that even in a period as short as twenty-five years, there have been successive waves of differently motivated, differently resourced Korean immigrants, and their experiences and reactions have differed accordingly.
American Journal of Sociology - Pyong Gap Min
[The authors'] transnational perspective is particularly effective for explicating Korean immigrants' behaviors, activities, and feelings...Interesting and readable.
International Migration Review - Eugene C. Kim
Beginning with a poetic book title, the authors recount in depth as to how the 'Blue Dreams' of the Korean-American merchants in East Los Angeles had shattered in the midst of [the] 1992 riot that turned out to be 'elusive dreams' in America...The book not only portrays the L.A. riot surrounding the Korean merchants, but also characterizes diaspora of the Koreans in America. The authors have also examined with scholarly insights the more complex socioeconomic and political underplay the Koreans encountered in their 'Promised New Land'.
Los Angeles Times
Blue Dreams--a poetic allusion to the clear blue sky that Koreans see as a symbol of freedom--is a welcome exploration by outsiders into the vexing and largely invisible Korean-American predicament in Los Angeles and the nation. [Abelmann and Lie 's] colorful interview subjects offer sharp observations.
— K.W. Lee
Times Literary Supplement
An informed and thoughtful examination of Korean immigration to the United States since 1970...[Abelmann and Lie] show that even in a period as short as twenty-five years, there have been successive waves of differently motivated, differently resourced Korean immigrants, and their experiences and reactions have differed accordingly.
— Michael Tonry
American Journal of Sociology
[The authors'] transnational perspective is particularly effective for explicating Korean immigrants' behaviors, activities, and feelings...Interesting and readable.
— Pyong Gap Min
International Migration Review
Beginning with a poetic book title, the authors recount in depth as to how the 'Blue Dreams' of the Korean-American merchants in East Los Angeles had shattered in the midst of [the] 1992 riot that turned out to be 'elusive dreams' in America...The book not only portrays the L.A. riot surrounding the Korean merchants, but also characterizes diaspora of the Koreans in America. The authors have also examined with scholarly insights the more complex socioeconomic and political underplay the Koreans encountered in their 'Promised New Land'.
— Eugene C. Kim
K. W. Lee
Blue Dreams--a poetic allusion to the clear blue sky that Koreans see as a symbol of freedom--is a welcome exploration by outsiders into the vexing and largely invisible Korean-American predicament in Los Angeles and the nation. [Abelmann and Lie's] colorful interview subjects offer sharp observations.Los Angeles Times
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780674077058
  • Publisher: Harvard University Press
  • Publication date: 9/15/1997
  • Edition description: Reprint
  • Pages: 290
  • Product dimensions: 6.14 (w) x 9.21 (h) x 0.61 (d)

Meet the Author

Nancy Abelmann is Henry E. Preble Professor of Anthropology, Asian American Studies, and East Asian Languages & Cultures at the University of Illinois, Urbana-Champaign.

John Lie is Class of 1959 Professor and Dean of International and Area Studies at University of California, Berkeley.

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Table of Contents

Preface

The Los Angeles Riots, the Korean American Story

Reckoning via the Riots

Diaspora Formation: Modernity and Mobility

Mapping the Korean Diaspora in Los Angeles

Korean American Entrepreneurship

American Ideologies on Trial

Conclusion

Notes

References

Index

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