8Books Review: “Trespassers?: Asian Americans and the Battle for Suburbia”

Because I had grown up in neighboring Newark and then lived in Fremont California for many years before moving to San Jose, I was intensely curious to read what Trespassers? Asian Americans and the Battle for Suburbia by Willow S. Lung-Amam had to say about Asian Americans life in suburban Fremont.  Would it present anything that I didn’t know already? After reading the book, I was surprised at how much was new to me – primarily the amount of resistance Fremont’s Asian American community encountered when it starting asserting itself in areas ranging from education to shopping centers to housing.

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Documenting The Rise Of Asian Majority Suburbs: Numbers And Implications

While the rise of Asian Ethnoburbs had been highlighted last year, the much debated (and maligned) Pew Report on Asian Americans says that only around 11% of Asian Americans live in such neighborhoods.  The report implies that Asian Americans are more likely to assimilate into more affluent white neighborhoods.  Is this the case, or is there more to the story?  This article in the Atlantic examines data regarding majority Asian suburbs such as those in the San Gabriel Valley.  Amidst its many graphs and tables, the article shows that some of the Pew Reports conclusions are simplified, and stresses many of the points that many make about statistics about Asian Americans.

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The Rise of Asian Ethnoburbs

“Its formal name is San Gabriel Square, a crowd of restaurants, bubble tea shops and high-fashion footwear boutiques in a prosperous middle-aged suburb with a majority-Asian population. You can walk around for an afternoon, as I did, and hear nothing but Cantonese and Mandarin. But what stands out about the Great Mall, in this part of the West, is that it no longer stands out at all.”

Population Changes in Santa Clara, 2000 to 2010 (Source Mercury News)

Professor Wei  Li, in a paper looking at the Chinese population in suburban Los Angeles, coined a term for an area like San Gabriel – ethnoburb.  An ethnoburb is defined as a suburban residential and business area in North America with a notable cluster of a particular ethnic minority population.   They differ from traditional Chinatowns, being wealthier and suburban.

I live and work in Asian ethnoburbs.  In the San Jose neighborhood where I live, the population is majority Asian with an Asian oriented shopping center like the one described above (but much smaller).  I work in the city of Santa Clara, which is an interesting example of the demographic changes happening in ethnoburbs.  Census data comparing Santa Clara’s 2000 population to 2010 showed a drop of 7,400 in the white population, a decrease of 15%.  At the same time, the Asian population increased by 13,700.  New Asian areas have emerged, like a new Koreatown.  We had a wonderful 8asians dinner at a Korean mall there, and my sons really like to eat there also. Continue reading “The Rise of Asian Ethnoburbs”