Great Plains Book of the Month

Each month the Center for Great Plains Studies features one book as its "Great Plains Book of the Month." We carefully choose books that are accessible and on topics of interest and importance for our region. They may be on any subject, of any genre, published within the last couple of years; occasionally we may feature a book published by or written at the Center. Mainly we want to bring attention to what we consider exceptional works both to learn from and enjoy.

April Book of the Month

The Road to Chinese Exclusion: The Denver Riot, 1880 Election, and Rise of the West

By Liping Zhu

Details: Immigrant history; discrimination & racism

Publisher:  University Press of Kansas, 2013

The current rise in anti-Asian hatred and violence is, sadly, nothing new in the Great Plains. Politicians at the state and national level supported the pernicious 1882 Chinese Exclusion Act—which was not repealed until 1943. Ample evidence of this prejudice is provided in Professor Zhu’s detailed account of the Anti-Chinese Riots in Colorado. Chinese immigrants, who crossed the Pacific Ocean and traveled overland to meet the labor demands of Denver’s economic growth, encountered White resentment and nativist rhetoric similar to what we see today. Newspapers, such as the Rocky Mountain News, encouraged bigotry by labeling Chinese “the pest of the Pacific,” and provided support when white mobs ransacked Chinese homes and businesses. By examining the relationship between the anti-Chinese movement and the rise of the West, this book sheds new light on our understanding of racial politics and sectionalism in the post-Reconstruction era, and provides a lesson for us today.

“Zhu’s study of regional politics in the American West leading to the national decision to exclude Chinese from the country is a must-read for those wanting to understand the current immigration dilemma.”—William Wei, author of The Asian American Movement

Additional Reading

  • Lee, Erika. The Making of Asian America: A History. Simon and Schuster, 2015.
  • Lew-Williams, Beth. The Chinese Must Go: Violence, Exclusion, and the Making of the Alien in America. Harvard University Press, 2018.
  • Merritt, Chris W. The Coming Man From Canton: Chinese Experience in Montana, 1862–1943. University of Nebraska Press, 2017.
  • Takaki, Ronald. Strangers from a Different Shore: A History of Asian Americans. Little, Brown and Compan, 2012.
  • Wunder, John R. Gold Mountain Turned to Dust: Essays on the Legal History of the Chinese in the Nineteenth-century American West. University of New Mexico Press, 2018.
  • Zhu, Liping. A Chinaman's Chance: The Chinese on the Rocky Mountain Mining Frontier. University Press of Colorado, 1997.
Layli Long Soldier

Past Great Plains Books of the Month:

American Serengeti: The Last Big Animals of the Great Plains, Dan Flores

A Chorus of Cranes: The Cranes of North America and the World, Paul Johnsgard

Encounter on the Great Plains: Scandinavian Settlers and the Dispossession of Dakota Indians, 1890-1930, Karen Hansen

Wild Again: The Struggle to Save the Black-Footed Ferret, David Jachowski

A Warrior of the People: How Susan La Flesche Overcame Racial and Gender Inequality to Become America's First Indian Doctor, Joe Starita

Natives of a Dry Place: Stories of Dakota Before the Oil Boom, Richard Edwards

Towards a Prairie Atonement, Trevor Herriot

Walking the Llano, Shelley Armitage

Barnstorming the Prairie, Jason Weems

Homesteading the PlainsRichard Edwards, Rebecca Wingo, Jacob Friefeld

Nebraska Poetry: A Sesquicentennial Anthology 1867-2017, Edited by Daniel Simon

This Blessed Earth: A Year in the Life of an American Family Farm, Ted Genoways

Grasses of the Great Plains, By James Stubbendieck, Stephan L. Hatch, Cheryl D. Dunn

The Personal History of Rachel DuPree, Ann Weisgarber

The Trans-Mississippi and International Expositions of 1898–1899: Art, Anthropology, and Popular Culture at the Fin de Siècle by Wendy Katz

Jewels of the Plains: Wildflowers of the Great Plains Grasslands and Hills by Claude Barr and James Locklear

Chemical Lands: Pesticides, Aerial Spraying, and Health in North America's Grasslands Since 1945 by David Vail

Converting the Rosebud: Catholic Mission and the Lakota, 1886-1916 by Harvey Markowitz

The Sea of Grass: A Family Tale from the American Heartland by Walter Echo-Hawk

Prairie Fires: The American Dreams of Laura Ingalls Wilder by Caroline Fraser. 

Great Plains Literature by Linda Ray Pratt

Heartland: A Memoir of Working Hard and Being Broke in the Richest Country on Earth by Sarah Smarsh

American Trinity: Jefferson, Custer, and the Spirit of the West by Larry Len Peterson

Native but Foreign: Indigenous Immigrants and Refugees in the North American Borderlands by Brenden Rensink

Slavery on the Periphery: The Kansas-Missouri Border in the Antebellum and Civil War Eras by Kristen Epps

Visions of the Tallgrass: Prairie Photographs by Harvey Payne

Flood on the Tracks: Living, Dying, and the Nature of Disaster in the Elkhorn River Basin by Todd Kerstetter

Killers of the Flower Moon: The Osage Murders and the Birth of the FBI by David Grann

kisiskâciwan: Indigenous Voices from Where the River Flows Swiftly by Jesse Rae Archibald-Barber

Pacing Dakota by Thomas Dean Isern

Theodore Roosevelt & Bison Restoration on the Great Plains by Keith Aune and Glenn Plumb

American Eclipse: A Nation’s Epic Race to Catch the Shadow of the Moon and Win the Glory of the World by David Baron

Sovereign Schools: How Shoshones and Arapahos Created a High School on the Wind River Reservation by Martha Louise Hipp

Hit by a Farm: How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love the Barn by Catherine Friend

The Chisholm Trail: Joseph McCoy's Great Gamble by James Sherow

First Americans: US Patriotism in Indian Country After World War I by Thomas Grillot

A Thirsty Land by Seamus McGraw

Keetsahnak/Our Missing And Murdered Indigenous Sisters by Kim Anderson, Maria Campbell, and Christi Belcourt, eds.

Forty Acres and a Fool: How to Live in the Country and Still Keep Your Sanity by Roger Welsch

Perfectly Golden: Adaptable Recipes for Sweet and Simple Treats by Angela Garbacz

Once Upon a Town: The Miracle of the North Platte Canteen by Bob Greene

Wilber "Bullet" Rogan and the Kansas City Monarchs by Phil S. Dixon

Standing Up to Colonial Power: The Lives of Henry Roe and Elizabeth Cloud by Renya K. Ramirez

Our History is the Future: Standing Rock Versus the Dakota Access Pipeline, and the Long Tradition of Indigenous Resistance by Nick Estes

Great Plains Politics by Peter Longo

Bury My Heart at Chuck E. Cheese's by Tiffany Midge

Nebraska: Poems by Kwame Dawes

World War II Nebraska by Melissa Amateis

Man Killed by Pheasant and Other Kinships: A Memoir by John Price

WHEREAS by Layli Long Soldier