What does becoming American have to do with becoming religious? Many immigrants become more religious after coming to the United States. Taiwanese are no different. Like many Asian immigrants to the United States, Taiwanese frequently convert to Christianity after immigrating. But Americanization is more than simply a process of Christianization. Most Taiwanese American Buddhists also say they converted only after arriving in the United States even though Buddhism is a part of Taiwan's dominant religion. By examining the experiences of Christian and Buddhist Taiwanese Americans, Getting Saved in America tells "a story of how people become religious by becoming American, and how people become American by becoming religious." Carolyn Chen argues that many Taiwanese immigrants deal with the challenges of becoming American by becoming religious. Based on in-depth interviews with Taiwanese American Christians and Buddhists, and extensive ethnographic fieldwork at a Taiwanese Buddhist temple and a Taiwanese Christian church in Southern California, Getting Saved in America is the first book to compare how two religions influence the experiences of one immigrant group.By showing how religion transforms many immigrants into Americans, it sheds new light on the question of how immigrants become American.
Carolyn Chen is associate professor of sociology and Asian American studies at Northwestern University.