The ugly American: Peeling the onion of an iconic cold war text

Daniel Immerwahr*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

3 Scopus citations


The Ugly American, published in 1958, was a literary blockbuster that offered a powerful vision of how the United States should fight communism in Asia. Yet despite the textual simplicity of the novel, it had a complex and layered backstory. Its characters were not wholly fictional but were based on real-life models, whose work in Asia laid the backdrop for the novel's vignettes. Adding an additional layer of complexity, two of those models lived covert lives-one as a closeted gay man working with the Central Intelligence Agency (cia), another as a cia officer tasked with putting down peasant insurgencies-that belied their public images.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)7-20
Number of pages14
JournalJournal of American-East Asian Relations
Issue number1
StatePublished - Jan 1 2019

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Cultural Studies
  • Sociology and Political Science
  • Political Science and International Relations
  • History


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