The best books about the history of race, ethnicity, and colonialism in the United States

Paul Spickard, Francisco Beltrán, and Laura Hooton Author Of Almost All Aliens: Immigration, Race, and Colonialism in American History and Identity
By Paul Spickard, Francisco Beltrán, and Laura Hooton

Who are we?

Paul Spickard wrote the first edition of Almost All Aliens. He invited Francisco Beltrán and Laura Hooton, who worked under Dr. Spickard at UC Santa Barbara, to co-author the second edition after working as research assistants and providing suggestions for the second edition. We are all historians of race, ethnicity, immigration, colonialism, and identity, and in our other works and teaching we each think about these topics in different ways. We did the same for this list—this is a list of five books that talk about topics that are important to Almost All Aliens and approaches that have been influential in how we think about the topic.  


We wrote...

Almost All Aliens: Immigration, Race, and Colonialism in American History and Identity

By Paul Spickard, Francisco Beltrán, and Laura Hooton,

Book cover of Almost All Aliens: Immigration, Race, and Colonialism in American History and Identity

What is our book about?

Almost All Aliens discusses ethnic identity and race from 1600 to the first two decades of the twenty-first century. The focus is on how immigration in the United States is and was multicultural, racialized, and deeply rooted in colonialism. Moving away from the European migrant-centered melting-pot model of immigrant assimilation, the book examines the lives of those who crossed the Atlantic, Pacific, Caribbean, and North American Borderlands, and their experiences navigating different racial and ethnic structures in the United States. 

The books we picked & why

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An Indigenous Peoples' History of the United States

By Roxanne Dunbar-Ortiz,

Book cover of An Indigenous Peoples' History of the United States

Why this book?

An Indigenous People’s History of the United States does exactly what the title says—it tells the history of the territory that became the United States from the perspective of various and different indigenous communities since before the arrival of Europeans. Roxanne Dunbar-Ortiz tackles a difficult task—writing about a wide array of people for an audience interested in learning a more expansive and inclusive account of the United States. In the process, she creates an expansive yet nuanced view of historical trends impacting indigenous peoples across North America, and therefore is a good starting point for understanding the topic.

An Indigenous Peoples' History of the United States

By Roxanne Dunbar-Ortiz,

Why should I read it?

5 authors picked An Indigenous Peoples' History of the United States as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

New York Times Bestseller

Now part of the HBO docuseries "Exterminate All the Brutes," written and directed by Raoul Peck

Recipient of the American Book Award

The first history of the United States told from the perspective of indigenous peoples
 
Today in the United States, there are more than five hundred federally recognized Indigenous nations comprising nearly three million people, descendants of the fifteen million Native people who once inhabited this land. The centuries-long genocidal program of the US settler-colonial regimen has largely been omitted from history. Now, for the first time, acclaimed historian and activist Roxanne Dunbar-Ortizoffers a history…

America for Americans: A History of Xenophobia in the United States

By Erika Lee,

Book cover of America for Americans: A History of Xenophobia in the United States

Why this book?

This book offers a great introduction to readers on the connection between race and immigration in the United States. Erika Lee shows how race has shaped understandings of identity, citizenship, and belonging from the colonial era to the present. She argues there is an often racialized definition of America and Americanness, which has led to the marginalization and exclusion of immigrants from all corners of the globe throughout United States history.

America for Americans: A History of Xenophobia in the United States

By Erika Lee,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked America for Americans as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.


Stamped from the Beginning: The Definitive History of Racist Ideas in America

By Ibram X. Kendi,

Book cover of Stamped from the Beginning: The Definitive History of Racist Ideas in America

Why this book?

Kendi’s book is the most recent in a long line of fantastic scholars who have tackled discussions of racism in America, especially anti-Black racism. Kendi focuses specifically on racist ideas, and how those ideas were created and then used to rationalize policies and inequalities for generations. The book is a New York Times Bestseller for a reason: it is accessible, has important ideas that are well-supported, and the reader doesn’t get lost in a history that covers a wide span of time.

Stamped from the Beginning: The Definitive History of Racist Ideas in America

By Ibram X. Kendi,

Why should I read it?

3 authors picked Stamped from the Beginning as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

Stamped from the Beginning is a redefining history of anti-Black racist ideas that dramatically changes our understanding of the causes and extent of racist thinking itself.

** Winner of the US National Book Award**

Its deeply researched and fast-moving narrative chronicles the journey of racist ideas from fifteenth-century Europe to present-day America through the lives of five major intellectuals - Puritan minister Cotton Mather, President Thomas Jefferson, fiery abolitionist William Lloyd Garrison, brilliant scholar W.E.B. Du Bois, and legendary anti-prison activist Angela Davis - showing how these ideas were developed, disseminated and eventually enshrined in American society.

Contrary to popular…


How Race Is Made in America: Immigration, Citizenship, and the Historical Power of Racial Scripts

By Natalia Molina,

Book cover of How Race Is Made in America: Immigration, Citizenship, and the Historical Power of Racial Scripts

Why this book?

A focused examination of the relation between race and immigration in the United States, Natalia Molina looks at the effect of racialized immigration views and policies on Mexican migrants during the first half of the twentieth century. Her theory of racial scripts, she argues, is the product of race-based views of American identity. A must-read for scholars of immigration and race, especially for understanding how racialization of one group can occur and impact others across United States history.

How Race Is Made in America: Immigration, Citizenship, and the Historical Power of Racial Scripts

By Natalia Molina,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked How Race Is Made in America as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

How Race Is Made in America examines Mexican Americans--from 1924, when American law drastically reduced immigration into the United States, to 1965, when many quotas were abolished--to understand how broad themes of race and citizenship are constructed. These years shaped the emergence of what Natalia Molina describes as an immigration regime, which defined the racial categories that continue to influence perceptions in the United States about Mexican Americans, race, and ethnicity. Molina demonstrates that despite the multiplicity of influences that help shape our concept of race, common themes prevail. Examining legal, political, social, and cultural sources related to immigration, she…

Undocumented Lives: The Untold Story of Mexican Migration

By Ana Raquel Minian,

Book cover of Undocumented Lives: The Untold Story of Mexican Migration

Why this book?

For readers interested in undocumented immigration, especially from Mexico, Minian’s book provides important and necessary historical context for present-day issues. In particular, the book explains how undocumented immigrants were caught in the middle of economic and political policies in the United States and Mexico. As the title implies, the lives of these immigrants are at the heart of the story, including how these much broader systems impacted their individual lives.

Undocumented Lives: The Untold Story of Mexican Migration

By Ana Raquel Minian,

Why should I read it?

2 authors picked Undocumented Lives as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

Frederick Jackson Turner Award Finalist
Winner of the David Montgomery Award
Winner of the Theodore Saloutos Book Award
Winner of the Betty and Alfred McClung Lee Book Award
Winner of the Frances Richardson Keller-Sierra Prize
Winner of the Americo Paredes Book Award

"A deeply humane book."
-Mae Ngai, author of Impossible Subjects

"Necessary and timely...A valuable text to consider alongside the current fight for DACA, the border concentration camps, and the unending rhetoric dehumanizing Mexican migrants."
-PopMatters

"A deep dive into the history of Mexican migration to and from the United States."
-PRI's The World

In the 1970s, the Mexican…


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