America’s Changing Neighborhoods: An Exploration of Diversity through Places. Edited by Reed Eueda. Santa Barbara, CA: Greenwood, 2017. 3 vols. Acid-free $247.20 (ISBN 978-1-4408-2864-5). E-book available (978-1-4408-2865-2), call for pricing.

Reference sources across the humanities have a bad habit of presenting monolithic entries on ethnic, racial, and cultural groups. While often acknowledging the omissions and sweeping generalizations made in topical articles framed around the experiences of “Asian Americans” or “Latinos,” often authors fail to capture the varied and intersectional experiences of lives lived not in identity groups, but cities and towns with unique social, geographic, and political landscapes. America’s Changing Neighborhoods presents an important departure, providing useful information about the histories of geographically based communities formed and shaped by current and past migrations.

The three-volume set begins with a lengthy introduction on the history of immigration and immigrant communities or “enclaves” in the United States. Editor Reed Eueda, a historian of the United States who studies social and institutional history and migration, argues that these enclaves have served as places where recent immigrants might pool resources and create networks of support, but also as spaces in which people have developed new ethnic identities as Americans, contributing to the continual reshaping of American culture.

The remainder of the work is divided into entries for each of the fifty states and nearly 180 topical essays that describe specific neighborhoods or enclaves by placing them in social and historical context. State entries offer brief overviews of ethnic and racial makeup and important trends in migration over time. They provide total population data from the eighteenth to twenty-first centuries and current ancestry of residents based on general census data and 2014 American Community Survey estimates, respectively. Other population data used in the narratives have been taken from the last full census in 2010.

The neighborhood entries are quite variable in depth, scope, and quality of sources. Some track several distinct phases of immigration from the seventeenth through twenty-first centuries, as communities moved in and sometimes out of the area. Others are solely focused on a neighborhood’s history since World War II. Strong entries, like “Kaka‘ako (Honolulu, Hawaii)” are well-developed and organized in labelled subsections that address particular time periods, significant events, or social, political, or economic trends. These entries tend to include scholarly resources and helpful primary documents in their “further reading” lists. Less useful entries, like “Sweet Auburn (Atlanta, Georgia),” are shorter, more general, and cite primarily government and nonprofit websites and recent newspaper articles.

Most contributors are historians or sociologists, though some are independent scholars or draw from other fields including law, journalism, and film. Notably absent are geographers, who could have lent a valuable disciplinary perspective to a resource focused on place-based communities.

There are few resources that could be compared with this one. Vecoli’s Gale Encyclopedia of Multicultural America (Gale, 1995) includes some information about the history of settlement patterns for specific immigrant populations, as does Levinson and Ember’s American Immigrant Cultures (Simon and Schuster Macmillan, 1997). Ancestry and Ethnicity in America (Grey House, 2012) provides far more granular statistical data but lacks narrative. Thernstrom’s Harvard Encyclopedia of American Ethnic Groups (Belknap, 1980), which Eueda contributed to as a graduate student, bears some resemblance but is out of date and lacks the place-based organizational structure that makes this resource unique. Historical encyclopedias that focus on a single ethnic or racial group may provide some overlap in coverage, but few include entries devoted to smaller enclaves or communities formed outside of major cities.

This book may be useful to undergraduates and high school students doing research in history, anthropology, geography, and area studies. It could also provide useful historical context for research into current, geographically situated trends or events.—Madeline Veitch, Research, Metadata, and Zine Librarian, State University of New York at New Paltz


  • There are currently no refbacks.

ALA Privacy Policy

© 2019 RUSA