At initial glance, the election of Asian-American mayors for the first time in San Francisco and Oakland—California’s fourth and eighth largest cities—would seem to undermine the arguments in Asian American Political Action: Suburban Transformations(Reinner, 2010), James S. Lai‘s splendid examination of the increasing political success of Asian-Americans in small- and medium-size suburbs. But a closer look at those two elections simply underscores a number of Lai’s points and shows what a timely, important book this is.
Ed Lee in San Francisco, for example, was elected by the board of supervisors to fill out the term of Gavin Newsom ’89 in part because Lee indicated he would not run in the next election. Lai points out that sustainability—the ability to elect and reelect their candidates and a key feature of political success—has usually eluded Asian-Americans in the larger cities where immigrants have typically first settled. Recent shifts in immigration patterns, however, have seen many Asian-American immigrants move directly to the suburbs, where they more quickly become politically engaged, have developed credible candidates, and enjoyed more sustained electoral success.
Jean Quan of Oakland did not even win a plurality of the initial Oakland vote. Instead she was elected as a result of ranked-choice voting, which favors strategies of cooperation and coalition building among second-and third-tier candidates. Lai’s fine-grained—and very readable—analysis of experiences in 10 case-study cities offers among many observations “important insights on constructing cross-racial coalitions.”
Not all is sweetness and light, of course. Lai also examines what he calls “tipping point politics” and others might call “backlash.” He acknowledges and explores significant challenges to Asian-American political success and uncovers strategies for meeting those challenges. So while Asian-American Political Action is primarily a solid work of scholarship—offering new typologies, theoretical structures, and narratives for understanding a facet of the American political experience—it is also the embodiment of the vision that Lai says inspires him: “Scholarly research and community service are not mutually exclusive.” Alden Mudge
With Freedom of Assembly and Petition: The First Amendment, Its Constitutional History and the Contemporary Debate (Prometheus Books, 2010), law professor Margaret M. Russell assembles the first anthology of its kind: scholarly articles that specifically examine the history, scope, and relevance of the right to assembly and petition, including how this right relates to sovereignty and the interest of disenfranchised groups. Basic liberties are at stake—and so are constitutional dilemmas, from the original intent of framers to an essay on “Hanging with the Wrong Crowd: Of Gangs, Terrorists, and the Right of Association.” Liz Carney ’11
But wait, there’s more
Meir Statman, Glenn Klimek Professor of Finance at the Leavey School of Business, adapts an essay from What Investors Really Want: Discover What Drives Investor Behavior and Make Smarter Financial Decisions (McGraw Hill, 2010) for an SCM feature you can read here.
Professor of Law Stephanie Wildman draws from Women and the Law Stories(Foundation Press, 2011), a collection she coedited, for her article on “Women’s work”as part of the law school centennial feature.
And Ron Hansen M.A. ’95 tells the story behind his new novel, A Wild Surge of Guilty Passion (Scribner, 2011), set in Prohibition-era New York. Hansen is the Gerard Manley Hopkins, S.J., Professor of Arts and Humanities and the literary editor of this magazine. Steven Boyd Saum