Voices of the Heart: Asian American Women on Immigration, Work, and Family

Huping Ling


A comprehensive and comparative oral history of Asian women living in the Midwest.


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Asian American women have played significant roles in Asian American history, yet their voices are not often heard. A firsthand look at Asian women of the Midwest, Voices of the Heart is a comprehensive and comparative oral history that includes Chinese, Japanese, Filipina, Korean, and Asian Indian women, as well as the newer Asian groups of Vietnamese, Laotians, Hmong, Thais, and Pakistanis. Huping Ling gathers these women’s heartfelt stories about their journeys to America, their aspirations, their strides in education and employment, their cultural heritage, and their family dynamics. The women featured tell how their experiences align with their expectations of life in America, and the challenges of adjusting to a new culture while preserving their own. These colorful personal stories allow for a unique glimpse into the worlds of these often overlooked women.

Huping Ling has interviewed a delightful mix of distinctive Asian American women and provided us with their valuable back stories. As the heartland changes so does our country. These are new Americans we need to meet.

—Jack Tchen, New York University

Huping Ling showcases the heretofore unknown life stories of Chinese, Japanese, Filipinas, Korean, South Asian, and Vietnamese immigrant and second generation women living in the American heartland. Told in their own words, Voices of the Heart  uncovers the dazzling diversity of Asian American women’s experiences as immigrants, workers, students, wives, mothers, daughters, and adoptees.

—Evelyn Glenn, University of California

Unlike most books about Asian American women that focus on those who are from the coasts, Huping Ling gives voice to Asian American women in the Midwest, treating those of East Asian, Southeast Asian, and South Asian descent, as well as international students and women of mixed ethnicity. Although different in background, generation, religion, and occupation, these women share fascinating accounts of their responses to issues such as dating, romance, marriage, family, work, cross-cultural interaction, and ethnic identity. This is a worthy addition to the growing literature about Asian American women.

—Franklin Ng, California State University




A Historical Review and Synthesis of Asian American Women

The First America-born Women
Foreign-born Women in Professional Fields
Interracial Marriage
Attaining Education

Immigrant Women at Work
Filipinas in the Health Industry
The Younger Generation: Defining Identity
Interracial Marriage

The Concentration Camp Experience
Interracial Marriage and Immigrant Women in Professional Fields
Attaining Education

Life of Immigrant Women
Interracial Marriage
Generational Conflict

Asian Indians and Pakistanis
At Home and Preserving Traditions
Foreign-born Women in Professional Fields
Factory Work and the Hotel Business
Attaining Education

Vietnamese, Laotians, Hmong, and Thai
The Refugee Experience
Vietnamese Adoptees
Interracial Marriage
Generational and Cultural Conflict

The Asian American Mosaic

About the Author

Works Cited



Huping Ling has published seven books, including the 1999 Ford Foundation Award for Jinshan Yao: A History of Chinese American Women. She is professor of history at Truman State University and holds a doctorate from Miami University.


This comprehensive oral history recognizes the challenges faced by immigrant women adjusting to a new culture while working to preserve their ethnic identity.

—State Historical Society of Missouri

Ling has compiled an invaluable collection of oral history interviews.… Ling highlights the diversity of cultures and immigrant experiences within the Asian American community over the 20th century, with an emphasis on those who settled in the Midwest.… Ling provides an extensive bibliography and an excellent introductory overview of Asian women’s cultural and historical background. Highly Recommended.


The voices of Asian American women in Asian American history, unfortunately, all too often go unheard. Voices of the Heart: Asian American Women on Immigration, Work, and Family offers a chance for them to be heard, speaking out in heartfelt stories about their journeys to America, their hopes, dreams, and how they have begun to cope with life in America. Author Huping Ling interviewed a grand variety of Asian American women to get the most complete story possible. Highly recommended to anyone who seeks a more complete view of Americana and American history in general.

 Midwest Book Review

The information contained in the book can be used not only by Asian American scholars; it also poses new questions for scholars of American studies and U.S. history in general, and it raises questions regarding international politics.... The book is a good read for anybody who is interested in race relations, in immigrant life, in the globalizing economy, in identity formation, in women's studies and in multicultural and intercultural studies.

Journal of Asian American Studies, June 2009