As a kid attending primary school in California, I constructed a model of Mission San Diego. My fourth-grade class also learned about the gold rush, and then we visited the California State Railroad Museum, where an oversized painting of the 1869 “last spike” ceremony still hangs, accompanied by an interpretive panel to aid museumgoers in identifying all the prominent white men who attended the historic event. Native American and Chinese laborers also appear in the painting, but they are unnamed and watch passively from the shadows, anonymous accessories to American history. Unfortunately, my experience as a student is not unique, and this compartmentalized view of California history endures, with increasing focus on chunks of time that feature more and more European and American settlers up to the present day. “History is of course more complex than one simple narrative,” Charlotte Sunseri writes, and what I enjoy about Alliance Rises in...

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