Although the first Asian immigrants to the United States were eighteenth-century Filipino sailors making port in undeveloped territory now belonging to Louisiana, the steady migration of Asians from their home countries did not begin until a century later with the gold rush , the transcontinental railroad , and the western land boom. The Asian American dream mirrored the traditional American dream: the overwhelming desire both to escape economic, social, and political hardship and to achieve a level of prosperity and success impossible in their homeland. Asian immigrants, like other immigrants, saw America as the land of opportunity and fortune. However, for them the American dream was divided into two distinct promises for the future. Some saw America as a place where they could earn money to support a family and future back in their home country, while others saw America as a place to secure a new, prosperous identity, both personal and national. Both of these promises were difficult to realize. In the mid-nineteenth century, the Chinese immigrant population became a vital force in the development of the western United States. By , Chinese workers comprised 20 percent of California's labor force and occupied a variety of positions in mining, farming, fishing, factory work, and railroad construction. Though contract laborers from southern China had been recruited as a cheap way to ensure American progress, their strong work ethic and willingness to take even the lowest-paying jobs quickly inspired anti-Chinese sentiment. Many Americans, particularly those affected by the depression of , accused the Chinese workers of taking away their jobs and, subsequently, their livelihoods. This negative and often violent opinion eventually inspired Congress to pass the Chinese Exclusion Act of , a law making immigration and naturalization difficult for the Chinese for the next sixty years. Despite the Chinese Exclusion Act and the volatile relationship between Chinese laborers and their American employers, the Asian American dream was not lost. Americans still wanted a discount on progress and, in the late nineteenth century, replaced the Chinese with hopeful immigrants from Japan, Korea, and India. But, as happened with the Chinese, anti-Asian sentiment soon arose. The U. Civil Rights Movement in the s pushed for restrictions to be lifted and annual quotas dramatically increased. Around this time, the United States government, eager to lead the race in technological advancement, created legislation that encouraged foreign-born engineers, doctors, and scientists to immigrate to America. Opportunity invited young and old, and success came in the form of education, a more liberated society, and the promise of a stable future as an American. The Asian immigrants sought the traditional American dream: With a little hard work, certain success would soon follow. Ruthanne Lum McCunn's children's book Pie-Biter tells the story of Hoi, a young Chinese boy whose ingenuity, determination, and love of pies help him triumph over adversity as he works on the transcontinental railroad. To reflect the hero's journey to success, McCunn writes Hoi's tale as a combination of the American tall tale and the quintessential American success story. As Hoi grows from hopeful adolescent to strong young man, McCunn allows Hoi to be a true American hero without sacrificing his culture. In Yep's young adult novel, Otter moves to America when he experiences racial discrimination in his home country, China. Otter, like Hoi, works on the transcontinental railroad, but when Otter arrives in America, he no longer sees the fields of gold he once imagined. In contrast to Hoi, who wants to make something of himself in his new homeland, Otter wishes to take what he learns in America back to China where he will free his people from the invading Manchus. Both Pie-Biter and Dragon's Gate , though fictional, clearly illustrate the two opposing dreams: reaping the opportunity America has to offer either to improve life back home or to make a fresh start in a young, developing nation. Those immigrants who decided to establish their futures by settling in the United States and becoming American frequently found themselves alienated, punished, and exiled for their Asian heritage. In Farewell to Manzanar , Jeanne Houston writes an autobiographical account of her family's experience when the U. Houston recounts her father's desperate need to cover up their Japanese roots after Pearl Harbor was bombed: "That night Papa burned the flag he had brought with him from Hiroshima thirty-five years earlier…. He burned a lot of papers too, documents, anything that might suggest he still had some connection with Japan. Monica Itoi Sone tells a similar story in her autobiography, Nisei Daughter Sone also talks about the day she first understood her ethnic heritage. She says simply: "One day when I was a happy six-year-old, I made the shocking discovery that I had Japanese blood. I was a Japanese.

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