Unlike most Chinese-American studies which focus on large urban concentrations sustained by continuous immigration, this study centers on a small Chinese enclave located in a rural Southern biracial society. It focuses upon three generations of Chinese undergoing social change in an area within the state of Mississippi known as the Delta. This isolated group of people, having little contact with other U.S. Chinese communities, remained nearly intact through the first two generations. Now great changes have caused the third generation to leave the enclave and to relinquish many ethnic traditions.
Lotus Among the Magnolias, a story recorded first-hand by a Chinese scholar who lived among the Mississippi Delta Chinese, is an ethnography about how the Chinese were initially classified by the whites as "colored," and later came to be viewed as a people with a separate identity. As their image has changed, so too have many values and traditions in their lives. This study shows how these Chinese have been able to expand their social and economic potential and are now moving away from their restrictive beginnings.
"Lotus Among the Magnolias: The Mississippi Chineseis a valuable study of how an isolated group of Chinese Americans maintain a vital community, and of the compromises they make with black people and white people in a society where there are strict rules according to race. As a Chinese American living in the West, I find it fascinating to read about Southerners, who have their own distinct cultural identity. To see how we are alike and unlike is to understand how we are shaped by America."--Maxine Hong Kingston
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