In an academic’s world, penning a book is an accomplishment. Having said book nominated for an award, an even bigger win. Now imagine hearing that a book you wrote clinched its fourth award. That’s the case for UCI sociologist Jennifer Lee and her co-author of The Asian American Achievement Paradox, which just earned the 2017 Association for Asian American Studies Award for Best Book in the Social Sciences.

“Being nominated for a book award is an honor in itself,” says Lee who was also just named to the editorial board of the journal Ethnic and Racial Studies. “Receiving a book award -- no less four awards -- is an enormous honor for which I'm tremendously grateful.”

Written with Min Zhou, UCLA sociologist, the award-winning book debunks the myth that Asian American academic achievement can be reduced to unique cultural traits or values. Instead, Lee and Zhou find that the U.S. immigration laws, American and ethnic institutions, and psychological factors foster high academic achievement among certain Asian American groups.

“The change in U.S. immigration law in 1965 was critical, because it ushered in a new stream of immigrants from Asia who are hyper-selected – meaning that they’re more highly educated than their compatriots and also more highly educated than the general U.S. population,” Lee says. The hyper-selectivity of Chinese immigrants in the U.S. means their children begin their quest for success from more favorable “starting points” than do children of other immigrant groups, such as Mexicans, or native-born groups, including whites, she says. 

The Best Book award adds to the three the co-authors already received, all from American Sociological Association sections. The 2016 Pierre Bourdieu Award, awarded by the Section on Education, recognizes the coauthors of The Asian American Achievement Paradox as having the best book in the sociology of education published in the two preceding years. The Thomas and Znaniecki Book Award is bestowed upon the authors for the best book in international migration. And the Asia and Asian America Section Book Award acknowledges the authors for having the most outstanding book on Asian America published in the past two years.

“We wrote The Asian American Achievement Paradox with a commitment to dispel misconceptions about the drivers of Asian American educational achievement, so to have our work acknowledged is especially meaningful,” says Lee. “We wanted to make a difference, and have an impact. Hopefully we've done that.“


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