Roots: An Asian American Reader (1971) was the first of over 200 books published by the UCLA Asian American Studies Center and a groundbreaking anthology of Asian American issues written for and by Asian Americans. The collection was intended for the college classroom and remained the standard textbook for Asian American Studies for many years. But it was also compiled with the particular needs of Asian American social workers, organizers, lawyers, students, and common citizens in mind, who desired a convenient anthology focusing on their own issues.
The collection included scholarly and political pieces drawing from traditional academic sources, but unlike traditional textbooks, it also included essays and poems that captured organic self-expression. As Franklin Odo explains in the books preface, the content was barely edited so that the voices of the Asian American authors would “be heard in all their anger, anguish, resolve and inspiration.” Roots went through twelve printings, sold over 50,000 copies, and remained one of the most important texts in Asian American history.