Ellen D. Wu

Ellen D. Wu, a second-generation Chinese American and native Hoosier, earned her M.A. in Asian American Studies at UCLA and her Ph.D. in History at the University of Chicago. Currently she is assistant professor of history at Indiana University Bloomington, where she researches and teaches modern United States and Asian American history. Her writing has been published in Chinese America: History and Perspectives, the Pacific Historical Review, the Journal of American Ethnic History, Gidra, Densho, the History News Network, and has recently published an op-ed in the Los Angeles Times on the Amy Chua controversy and the “model minority” myth. She is the author of The Color of Success: Asian Americans and the Origins of the Model Minority (Princeton University Press, 2014), the first full-length historical study of the invention of the “model minority” stereotype between the 1930s and the 1960s. Follow her on Twitter @ellendwu.

Updated February 2014 

community en ja es

The Forgotten Story of Japanese American Zoot Suiters - Part 2

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The WRA worked hard to weed out yogore among potential resettlers. Prisoners who wanted to leave the camps had to promise federal officials that they would only speak English in public, avoid associating with large groups of Japanese, and generally conform to mainline standards of behavior and clothing.


Chicago’s resettlers tested this rigid vision of ethnic dispersal right away. Some complied strictly with the WRA’s guidelines. But others took a more realistic approach in this new, strange city. Lonely Nisei sought each other out for companionship. Many hesitated to interact with whites because they simply …

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community en ja es

The Forgotten Story of Japanese American Zoot Suiters - Part 1

Sus Kaminaka was a zoot suiter: one of the many young people in 1940s America who embraced a distinctive, working-class urban aesthetic characterized by flamboyant fashions and irreverent comportment. Kaminaka and other hipsters sported pompadours and ducktail haircuts, “drapes” consisting of broad-shouldered, long fingertip coats tapered at the ankles, pleated pegged pants, wide-brimmed hats, and watch fobs. They also loved to party. Jazz, jitterbugging, lindy hopping, drinking, casual sex, and “cool” were just as integral to the lives of zoot suiters as their characteristic dress.

Sus Kaminaka was also a Nisei: a second-generation American born to immigrant Japanese parents …

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