One of TIME's Must-Read Books of 2020

Washington Post Notable Work of Nonfiction of 2020

Longlisted for the 2021 Andrew Carnegie Medal

A sweeping history of the 20th century battle to reform American immigration laws that set the stage for today's roiling debates.

“Yang’s compelling history could not be more timely.... The combination of meticulous research and captivating writing creates a beautiful surprise; a dark history that gleams under the spotlight of unvarnished truthtelling. Expect a lot of reader requests and award attention for this significant title.”


Jia Lynn Yang is a deputy national editor at The New York Times. She was previously deputy national security editor at The Washington Post, where she was part of a team that won a Pulitzer Prize for coverage of Trump and Russia. Before becoming an editor, Jia Lynn wrote about business and economics at the Post and at Fortune magazine for over a decade. Jia Lynn grew up in Northern Virginia and graduated from Yale. She lives in Brooklyn with her husband and daughter.

Jia Lynn's family immigrated to the United States from Taiwan in the 1970s and was able to stay in the country thanks to the 1965 Immigration and Nationality Act. One Mighty and Irresistible Tide is her effort to understand the people who fought to give her family a place in America.



The idea of the United States as a nation of immigrants is at the core of the American narrative. But in 1924, Congress instituted a system of ethnic quotas so stringent that it choked off large-scale immigration for decades, sharply curtailing arrivals from southern and eastern Europe and outright banning those from Asia.


In a riveting narrative filled with a fascinating cast of characters, from the indefatigable congressman Emanuel Celler and senator Herbert Lehman to the bull-headed Nevada senator Pat McCarran, One Mighty and Irresistible Tide recounts how lawmakers, activists, and presidents from FDR through LBJ worked relentlessly to abolish the 1924 law.


Through a world war, a refugee crisis after the Holocaust, and a McCarthyist fever, a coalition of lawmakers and activists descended from Jewish, Irish, and Japanese immigrants fought to establish a new principle of equality in the American immigration system.


Their crowning achievement, the 1965 Immigration and Nationality Act, proved to be one of the most transformative laws in the country’s history, opening the door to nonwhite migration at levels never seen before—and changing America in ways that those who debated it could hardly have imagined.

For more:

Read an adapted excerpt in The New York Times Sunday Review: "When Asian Americans Have to Prove We Belong"


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Excellent.…Critical in understanding today's immigration issues.

A masterly study of political struggle....Yang has written a captivating account, full of personality and drama—and significance...worth reading to the last page.

Powerful, riveting, and beautifully written…This book could not be more timely: In a divisive moment where the place of immigrants in America is bitterly debated, we need this book more than ever.

—Michelle Kuo, author of Reading with Patrick: 

A Teacher, a Student, and a Life-Changing Friendship