Born in Missouri, Madeline Y. Hsu grew up traveling between Hong Kong, Taiwan, and Arkansas. She is Professor of History and former director of the Center for Asian American Studies at the University of Texas at Austin. She is the author of Asian American History: A Very Short Introduction (2016), Dreaming of Gold, Dreaming of Home: Transnationalism and Migration between the United States and South China, 1882-1943 (2000) and The Good Immigrants: How the Yellow Peril Became the Model Minority (2015). She also coedited, with Maddalena Marinari and Maria Cristina Garcia, A Nation of Immigrants Reconsidered: U.S. Society in an Age of Restriction, 1924-1965 (2019), and edited Chinese American Transnational Politics (2010), which features articles by the pioneering Chinese American historian Him Mark Lai. She is the lead scholar for the website Teach Immigration History which is co-sponsored by the Immigration and Ethnic History and the NEH's EdSitement program. Her ongoing research projects explore ethnic food and entrepreneurship, the entwining of U.S. foreign relations with immigration law and racial ideologies, contemporary Taiwanese history, and Cold War migrations and imperial projects.
The life stories of highly achieving Chinese Americans such as I.M. Pei, C.N. Yang, and cookbook author Buwei Yang Chao reveal changing American attitudes about the characteristics of desirable immigrants. During World War II and the Cold War, the obvious contributions and ready adaptability of such highly educated, cosmopolitan Chinese contributed to the drive to reform immigration laws from their discriminatory reliance on race and national origins to the more egalitarian emphasis on family reunification and employment featured in the landmark 1965 Immigration Act.