Forever Struggle: Activism, Identity, & Survival in Boston’s Chinatown, 1880-2018, by Michael Liu, Boston, MA, University of Massachusetts Press, 2020.
Reviewed by: Carlos Teixeira, University of British Columbia
Boston’s history has been defined by successive waves of immigration, which have played a key role in shaping the city’s rich and complex urban cultural mosaic. Throughout the last one 150 years, Boston, like many other cities in the US, has been a major “port of entry” for a large and diverse immigrant population, including Chinese immigrants who have settled in an array of urban ethnic neighborhoods, often establishing institutionally complete communities in well-delimited geographical areas in the city.
The focus of this book is Boston’s Chinatown. This urban enclave — which in its long history has often been subjected to xenophobia and biased planning practices by local government, politicians, and urban elites (e.g., developers) — offers an important case study of neighborhood resilience and survival in an eastern American city that underwent major phases of population and urban growth. Michael Liu’s timely study makes an important contribution to the scholarship of immigrants in multicultural cities in North America. In the author’s own words, this book focuses on “Chinatown’s journey and its struggle to survive via strategies such as compliance, negotiation, massive protests, multiple mobilizations, self-reliance, and community planning. In the end, this is a story of struggle against a structure that privileges development for maximum profit above all other values.” (p. ix).
The author has put together a rich and well-organized manuscript where he brings in-depth knowledge about the structure and evolution of Boston Chinatown as well as the numerous challenges/barriers that its residents and institutions faced due to continuous urban development pressures. He outlines how the community mobilized against these pressures through neighborhood activism and how it fought to “have a voice in neighborhood affairs.” (p. 169).
The full book review will appear in an upcoming issue of the Journal of Urban Affairs.
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