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Chinese American Voices

Chinese American Voices: From the Gold Rush to the Present

Judy Yung
Gordon H. Chang
Him Mark Lai
Copyright Date: 2006
Edition: 1
Pages: 486
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  • Book Info
    Chinese American Voices
    Book Description:

    Described by others as quaint and exotic, or as depraved and threatening, and, more recently, as successful and exemplary, the Chinese in America have rarely been asked to describe themselves in their own words. This superb anthology, a diverse and illuminating collection of primary documents and stories by Chinese Americans, provides an intimate and textured history of the Chinese in America from their arrival during the California Gold Rush to the present. Among the documents are letters, speeches, testimonies, oral histories, personal memoirs, poems, essays, and folksongs; many have never been published before or have been translated into English for the first time. They bring to life the diverse voices of immigrants and American-born; laborers, merchants, and professionals; ministers and students; housewives and prostitutes; and community leaders and activists. Together, they provide insight into immigration, work, family and social life, and the longstanding fight for equality and inclusion. Featuring photographs and extensive introductions to the documents written by three leading Chinese American scholars, this compelling volume offers a panoramic perspective on the Chinese American experience and opens new vistas on American social, cultural, and political history.

    eISBN: 978-0-520-93832-8
    Subjects: History

Table of Contents

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  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-vi)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. vii-x)
    (pp. xi-xiv)
    (pp. xv-xx)
    (pp. xxi-xxii)

    • [PART ONE Introduction]
      (pp. 1-6)

      The first Chinese to immigrate to the United States in the mid—nineteenth century came principally from the Pearl River Delta of Guangdong Province in southeastern China. Attracted by stories of the California gold rush, they came not only as miner-prospectors, but also as artisans, merchants, and students. Many more arrived as laborers to work in Hawaii’s plantations and the mines, railroad lines, farmlands, fisheries, and factories of the American West. From 1852 until 1882, when the Chinese Exclusion Act was passed, over 300,000 Chinese entered the United States. They were part of an international migration of labor from Asia...

    • Songs of Gold Mountain Wives
      (pp. 7-8)

      In the second reign year of Haamfung,¹ a trip to Gold Mountain was made.

      With a pillow on my shoulder, I began my perilous journey.

      Sailing a boat with bamboo poles across the seas,

      Leaving behind wife and sisters in search of money,

      No longer lingering with the woman in the bedroom,

      No longer paying respect to parents at home.

      I beg of you, after you depart, to come back soon,

      Our separation will be only a flash of time;

      I only wish that you would have good fortune.

      In three years you would be home again.

      Also, I beg...

    • To His Excellency Governor Bigler (1852)
      (pp. 9-12)
      Norman Asing


      I am a Chinaman, a republican, and a lover of free institutions; am much attached to the principles of the government of the United States, and therefore take the liberty of addressing you as the chief of the government of this State. Your official position gives you a great opportunity of good or evil. Your opinions through a message to a legislative body have weight, and perhaps none more so with the people, for the effects of your late message have been thus far to prejudice the public mind against my people, to enable those who wait the opportunity...

    • The Founding of Golden Hills’ News (1854)
      (pp. 13-14)

      My goal in establishing the newspaper is to serve the business community, to broaden knowledge, to give expression to opinions and sentiments, and to inform readers about government affairs. Currently the state of California has become a gathering place for the world. Every immigrant group has its own newspaper except for the Chinese. As a result, although the Chinese merchants are many in number, they have no influence. Because they are uninformed, they have no way to exercise their freedom of choice. Even though they participate in American society, they lack real understanding and are easily manipulated and deceived by...

    • Letter by a Chinese Girl (1876)
      (pp. 15-16)
      Sing Kum

      Miss B,

      You ask me to write about my life. I can not write very well, but will do the best I can.

      I was born in Sin Lam, China, seventeen years ago. My father was a weaver and my mother had small feet. I had a sister and brother younger than myself. My father was an industrious man, but we were very poor. My feet were never bound; I am thankful they were not. My father sold me when I was about seven years old; my mother cried. I was afraid, and ran under the bed to hide. My...

    • Documents of the Chinese Six Companies Pertaining to Immigration
      (pp. 17-25)

      To His Excellency U. S. Grant, President of the United States of America:


      In the absence of any Consular representative, we, the undersigned, in the name and in behalf of the Chinese people now in America, would most respectfully present for your consideration the following statements regarding the subject of Chinese immigration to this country:

      I. We understand that it has always been the settled policy of your Honorable Government to welcome immigration to your shores from all countries, without let or hindrance.

      The Chinese are not the only people who have crossed the ocean to seek a residence...

    • The Second Exhumation and Return of the Remains of Our Departed Friends to the Homeland (1876)
      (pp. 26-29)

      San Francisco is more than 20,000 miles from China. When the Americans opened up the frontier lands, they purposely used homesteading and gold mining to attract immigrants. That was why the Chinese flocked to California like ducks to water. Yet who knows how many of them died with their ambitions unattained, their dreams unfulfilled. Instead, their spirits could not return to their homeland since their bones were buried in foreign soil. They could only gaze longingly toward home, and their anguish deepened with each passing of Ching Ming.¹

      One cannot but feel regret at such stories. Therefore, in 1858, Xianfeng²...

    • Reminiscences of a Pioneer Student (1923)
      (pp. 30-38)
      Wen Bing Chung

      I am going to relate to you this evening: how the Chinese Government was persuaded to despatch the first government students to the United States of America to be educated. I will give you a succinct account only, because it will occupy too much of your valuable time, and is too long and tedious a narrative, covering as it does a period of more than fifty years.

      It was in 1870 that some unfortunate missionaries were killed by the rough elements in Tientsin.¹ The Chinese officials had great difficulty in engaging the service of [an] efficient interpreter and translator to...

    • Reminiscences of an Old Chinese Railroad Worker (1926)
      (pp. 39-42)
      Wong Hau-hon

      I first came to Canada in 1882 (the 8th year of Guangxu)¹ on a sailing vessel. There were ninety or so fellow Chinese on the same ship. We debarked at Westminister in mid-March of that year.

      After a few days ashore, I set out on foot with a group of about four hundred Chinese to join the railroad construction crews at Yale [British Columbia]. In the daytime we walked and at night we slept in cloth tents beneath the trees. Those who did not have tents hung up their blankets to act as makeshift shelters.

      After our arrival at Yale,...

    • Memorandum No. 29 to Envoy Zheng (1882)
      (pp. 43-47)
      Huang Zunxian

      Your Excellency’s letter No. 27 arrived on the ninth day of this month, followed by letters No. 28 and No. 29 on the twenty-fifth and twenty-seventh, respectively. I have studied each of them carefully and understood their contents. The following is my report, in which I have attempted to provide information and responses, per your instructions.

      Regarding the matter of Chinese laborers borrowing passage [through the United States], a subject which your Excellency has repeatedly discussed with the State Department, I have just learned that the U.S. Attorney General has written to the State Department advising that, in view of...

    • Memorial of Chinese Laborers at Rock Springs, Wyoming (1885)
      (pp. 48-54)

      Your Honor:

      We, the undersigned, have been in Rock Springs, Wyoming Territory, for periods ranging from one to fifteen years, for the purpose of working on the railroads and in the coal mines.

      Up to the time of the recent troubles we had worked along with the white men, and had not had the least ill feeling against them. The officers of the companies employing us treated us and the white man kindly, placing both races on the same footing and paying the same wages.

      Several times we had been approached by the white men and requested to join them...

    • A Chinese View of the Statue of Liberty (1885)
      (pp. 55-56)
      Saum Song Bo


      A paper was presented to me yesterday for inspection, and I found it to be specially drawn up for subscription among my countrymen toward the Pedestal Fund of the Bartholdi Statue of Liberty.¹ Seeing that the heading is an appeal to American citizens, to their love of country and liberty, I feel that my countrymen and myself are honored in being thus appealed to as citizens in the cause of liberty. But the word liberty makes me think of the fact that this country is the land of liberty for men of all nations except the Chinese. I consider...

    • Reminiscences of an Early Chinese Minister (1932)
      (pp. 57-67)
      Huie Kin

      On a clear, crisp, September morning in 1868, or the seventh year of our Emperor Tongzhi, the mists lifted, and we sighted land for the first time since we left the shores of Kwangtung over sixty days before. To be actually at the “Golden Gate” of the land of our dreams! The feeling that welled up in us was indescribable. I wonder whether the ecstasy before the Pearly Gates of the Celestial City above could surpass what we felt at the moment we realized that we had reached our destination. We rolled up our bedding, packed our baskets, straightened our...

    • Bow On Guk (Protective Bureau) (1887)
      (pp. 68-69)

      We Chinese in Hawaii left our home villages to make our fortunes. At first we lived peacefully and happily, but later on conflicts arose among ourselves as we cut each other’s skins.² And because of this weakness we were frequently subject to foreign exploitation. Fellow countrymen, don’t say that a spark of fire cannot burn a large plain nor that a tiny cloud cannot cause a rainfall, for drops of water will form a river and a little work each day will move a mountain. If we are not harmonious among ourselves and promote friendship among our countrymen, how can...

    • Why Am I a Heathen? (1887)
      (pp. 70-78)
      Wong Chin Foo

      Born and raised a heathen, I learned and practiced its moral and religious code; and acting thereunder I was useful to myself and many others. My conscience was clear, and my hopes as to future life were untrimmed by distracting doubt. But, when about seventeen, I was transferred to the midst of our showy Christian civilization, and at this impressionable period of life Christianity presented itself to me at first under its most alluring aspects; kind Christian friends became particularly solicitous for my material and religious welfare, and I was only too willing to know the truth.

      I had to...

    • Why I Am Not a Heathen: A Rejoinder to Wong Chin Foo (1887)
      (pp. 79-85)
      Yan Phou Lee

      I draw a sharp distinction between Religion and Ethics. Religion pertains to the heart. Ethics deals more with outward conduct. Religion inculcates principles. Ethics lays down rules. Religion without Ethics is like a disembodied spirit; Ethics without Religion is a body from which the soul has fled. The most intelligent form of Heathenism, namely, Confucianism, never taught the “‘relations and acts of individuals toward God,” the Ruler of the Universe. Confucius inculcated a lofty morality, but left Religion to shift for itself.

      “Born and raised a heathen, I learned and practiced its moral and religious code,” by worshiping the prescribed...

    • The Geary Act: From the Standpoint of a Christian Chinese (1892)
      (pp. 86-90)
      Jee Gam

      During the last six months this act has been more talked about than any other question in America. You can hardly take up a daily paper, a magazine, or any religious paper, without finding something about the Geary Law. The Chambers of Commerce, the Board of Trade, the mass meetings, the religious conventions, preachers in their pulpits, in fact all clubs and societies have discussed this question. Every individual from the lowest to the highest has spoken on it. Some are for it; others are against it. Even the judges of the highest tribunal in America differ in opinion concerning...

    • Leaves from the Life History of a Chinese Immigrant (1936)
      (pp. 91-96)
      Elizabeth Wong

      “Lucky come Hawaii? Sure, lucky, come Hawaii,” said Mrs. Teng,¹ pushing back her black hair with her hands, which showed signs of hard labor. “Before I come to Hawaii I suffer much. Only two kinds of people in China, the too poor and the too rich. I never can forget my days in China,” she said, her mouth falling into a smile revealing a pretty good set of teeth. She is proportionally built for her five feet four.

      “In a small crowded village, a few miles from Hongkong, fifty-four years ago I was born. There were four in our family,...

    • Kam Wah Chung Letters (1898–1903)
      (pp. 97-102)

      An unfinished letter to a wife in China.

      From an unknown husband, via the Kam Wah Chung Co., John Day, Grant County, Oregon.


      My Beloved Wife:

      It has been several autumns now since your dull husband left you for a far remote alien land. Thanks to my hearty body I am all right. Therefore stop embroidering worries about me.

      Yesterday I received another of your letters. I could not keep the tears from running down my cheeks when thinking about the miserable and needy circumstances of our home, and thinking back to the time of our separation.

      Because of...


    • [PART TWO Introduction]
      (pp. 103-108)

      The exclusion years were marked by racial and class strife in the larger society as well as social and political upheavals within the Chinese community. Conditions for the Chinese did not improve until World War II, when China and the United States became allies and Chinese Americans were encouraged to participate in an all-American effort to defend democracy and defeat fascism. Until then, the exclusion acts remained in force, and Chinese in the United States had to endure not only the legal limitations set by discriminatory legislation but also racial prejudice as a daily fact of life. As Chinese immigrants...

    • The Treatment of the Exempt Classes of Chinese in the U.S. (1908)
      (pp. 109-117)
      Ng Poon Chew

      After a quarter of a century of Chinese Exclusion, many people take it for granted that Exclusion has become a fixed policy of the Government of the United States, and that the vexed Chinese question is finally and permanently settled, as far as this country is concerned. The exclusion of Chinese laborers may have become a fixed policy with the United States, but the treatment of the exempt classes is not settled and will not be until it is settled aright with justice to all.

      The Chinese Exclusion Law, as now enacted and enforced, is in violation of the letter...

    • Detention in the Wooden Building (1910)
      (pp. 118-124)

      My mind often recalls Su Wu who, in maintaining his unyielding loyalty to the Han Dynasty, would rather endure the biting snow in the freezing frontier,³

      And the King of Yue who, in reminding himself to seek revenge against the State of Wu, would sleep on firewood and lick the bitter gall bladder.⁴

      Our ancestors have met adversities;

      They have overcome hardships;

      Their trials and tribulations are duly recognized in the history books.

      Showing their might before the barbarians,

      Calming the anxiety within themselves—

      That would resolve my life-long yet unfilled ambitions.

      And yet

      My generation is indeed unlucky;


    • Letter Asking for Support to Build the Sunning Railroad (1911)
      (pp. 125-128)
      Chin Gee Hee

      Dear Sirs:

      Our company is undertaking the construction of the Jiangmen extension of the Sunning Railroad. Survey work began during the eleventh lunar month of last year. To date foundation has been laid up to Fenshuijiang, and, in another seven miles or so, we will reach the city of Xinhui. Tracks are currently laid up to Dawang City. The stretch from Gongyi to the Niuwan coast is already open to construction vehicles. The Xinhui City segment will probably be finished before the year is over or by next spring. As for the segment from Xinhui City to Jiangmen and Baishi,...

    • Admission of Wives of American Citizens of Oriental Ancestry (1926)
      (pp. 129-137)
      Chinese-American Citizens’ Alliance

      (This pamphlet, prepared for submission to the Committee on Immigration and Naturalization of the House of Representatives, Sixty-ninth Congress, first session, is issued by the United Parlor, Native Sons of the Golden State, Chinese-American Citizens’ Alliance, an organization composed of American citizens of the Chinese race, having for its object and purpose the fostering of patriotism and good citizenship, the head offices of the organization are at 1044 Stockton Street, San Francisco, Calif. Its subordinate lodges are scattered throughout the United States.)¹

      This is a plea for relief from a hardship imposed upon a certain class of citizens of the...

    • “Just plain old luck and good timing”: Reminiscences of a Gold Mountain Man (1988)
      (pp. 138-156)
      Gong Yuen Tim

      I came from a family of poor peasant background for three generations. Like his grandfather and father before him, my father, Man Dak, farmed on tenmouof leased land¹ near the ancestral Lok Cheung Village in Huaxian [District]. He had seven sons and five daughters but no money. It was really a hard-luck life for everyone.

      When I was eight years old, our paternal uncle Chaap Kuen sponsored Older Brother Yik Hau to come to Gold Mountain. After that, we received remittances from America and I was able to attend school for eight years. When I was fifteen years...

    • “I was the only Chinese woman in town”: Reminiscences of a Gold Mountain Woman (1982)
      (pp. 157-164)
      Helen Hong Wong

      I was born in Hom Gong Village in Sunwui District [in 1909]. Mygoong[grandfather] and father owned a hemp business in the nearby town of Nam How. The Chans and the Lums were feuding and we were caught in the middle. As a result, our house was burnt down in a fire and we had to run tojo poh’s [grandmother’s] home in Ngui Hoi. We didn’t have much money. Just put some bedding and clothes in some large baskets—the kind with handles that you pull rope through to carry things—and had some hired hands help us...

    • Second-Generation Dilemmas (1930s)
      (pp. 165-176)
      Pardee Lowe

      This is a brief case history of an American-born Chinese young man who has had several years of college but has never graduated (1937):

      Own comments: This is a fairly typical case of a Chinatown youth who has failed to make either an educational adjustment or vocational adjustment to the hyphenated world in which he lives. Chinatown has “unfitted” him for work in its own community and he lacks something, aside from racial factors, which makes it difficult for him to hold a job in the American community.

      When I have talked to him at the Y.M.C.A., where he is...

    • I Am Growing More Chinese—Each Passing Year! (1934)
      (pp. 177-182)
      Anna May Wong

      With every passing year I feel myself more Chinese; it is as though I were taking up the heritage of my race. Yet I have never seen China.

      My father came from a little town near Canton.¹ He is Chinese to the bottom of his soul, charitable, tolerant, wise.

      I was born in Los Angeles. My real name is Wong Luie Song²—which means “Yellow Frosted Willow.” I did not learn to speak English until I went to school.

      My first school was in the old building on California Street. I was very miserable. The American boys used to chase...

    • Declaration of the Chinese Hand Laundry Alliance (1933)
      (pp. 183-185)

      Ever since China’s fence of insulation was broken by European and American capitalist-imperialism, the Chinese socioeconomic basis was fundamentally shaken.¹ The rural economy was bankrupt, and urban industries shut one after another. Unable to make a living [in China], we were forced from our families, to leave our hometowns, and to go overseas to seek petty profits. But we do not have large amounts of capital to invest in commerce, therefore most of us in this country are engaging in the hand laundry business. So, this trade became the lifeline of the Chinese community, and our wives and children back...

    • Chinese Women’s Association Condensed Report for the Years 1932–1936
      (pp. 186-195)

      The record of this Association’s steady increase in membership to over 350 together with its great activities during the last five years speaks for itself. For the sake of clarity, I wish to divide this report into three parts: (I) The purpose, (II) The activities and (III) The future plans of this Association.

      New York Chinatown, with a population of almost 10,000, is the second largest Chinese community center in the U.S.A. With a Chinese population of about 16,000, San Francisco already can claim to have two organizations for Chinese women. But here in New York, at the time when...

    • Song of Chinese Workers (1938)
      (pp. 196-199)
      Happy Lim

      Years ago, long before 1938,

      Our ancestors, sailing by boat, crossing the vast ocean,

      Leaving behind the family,

      Arrived on this land, America.

      At that time, America was but a barren land

      Of mountain ranges with no sight of humanity.

      Through our ancestors’ tireless work, reclaiming,

      Turning it into high-rising metropolises today.

      Take a look: That piece of earth—the forest, the mines,

      Don’t you see our ancestors’ blood and sweat?

      Take a look: That railroad, the ranches and factories,

      Don’t you know that they are our ancestors’ handiwork?

      Once the air-horn blasted, it’s time to work.

      They picked up...

    • Chinatown Goes Picketing (1938)
      (pp. 200-203)
      Lim P. Lee

      San Francisco’s waterfront has been the scene of many labor wars but it was only last month that the Sino-Japanese war was carried to its Embarcadero. The “zero hour” was 11 a.m., Dec. 16, and the “stragetic withdrawal” was 2 p.m., Dec. 20, 1938, and whatdidhappen has attracted nation-wide attention and is a story worth re-telling.

      By the “grapevine method”—the most effective [form of] communication in Chinatown—Chinatownians heard that “something will happen” at the waterfront on Dec. 16, and all interested in picket duty for the good of China were to meet at 10:30 a.m. at...

    • Paul Robeson: The People’s Singer (1950)
      (pp. 204-208)
      Liu Liangmo

      The individual most representative of the black people’s struggle and their fighting spirit is none other than their own famous singer, Mr. Paul Robeson, whom I first met over nine years ago (1940). I had just come to this country, bringing with me many Chinese songs of resistance, which I hoped to introduce all over the U.S. However, being a new arrival with hardly any contacts or connections, I could do little on my own and was at a loss as to how to achieve my goal. It was then that I thought of Robeson, whose fame had reached me...

    • The Founding of McGehee Chinese School (1944)
      (pp. 209-211)
      Jew Baak Ming

      A decade ago, many of the married Memphis Chinese, concerned with their children’s education and well-being, began moving to Arkansas. Those who believed strongly in education noticed that just in the southeast corner of Arkansas there were already forty to fifty school-aged Chinese children. As there were no Chinese schools, however, any attempt to instill Chinese culture was difficult. Within the family, parents were busy working and had no time to attend to the task, and the children were in danger of becoming corrupted by the immoral customs of American society.

      In the spring of 1939, Messrs. Jew Ji Faan,...

    • “There but for the grace of God go I”: The Story of a POW Survivor in World War II (2002)
      (pp. 212-220)
      Eddie Fung

      When the army came to the ranch in the early forties to buy horses, we had the horses all groomed. After they picked the horses, they started telling me about the army. Of course, they were talking from the officer’s point of view. Said all they did was play polo. They asked me if I wanted to be a houseboy. I said, “No, I don’t think so.” But then I decided, “Holy smoke, that’s another place where I can be around horses. I can join the cavalry.” So I went up to the army recruiting station and asked them if...

    • One Hundred and Seven Chinese (1943)
      (pp. 221-224)
      Gilbert Woo

      Should the Chinese Exclusion Act be repealed, then 107 Chinese⁴ will enter the United States every year. As a result, the attention of all those who oppose the repeal seems to be focused on these 107 individuals.

      These 107 individuals—ah, you can truly be proud of yourselves. In number there are not enough of you to make up a full set of mahjong tiles; yet in power you can scoop up the moon’s reflection in the water.⁵

      Do you know that an American boxer claims he can take on 100 men? So actually, they can summon a boxer and...


    • [PART THREE Introduction]
      (pp. 225-232)

      Sweeping changes in immigration, domestic, and foreign policies irrevocably changed the composition and lives of the Chinese American population during the second half of the twentieth century. In the afterglow of World War II, Congress passed the War Brides Act of 1945 and Alien Wives Act of 1946, which allowed over seven thousand Chinese women to enter as nonquota immigrants and join their husbands in America. This, in turn, generated a baby boom and noticeable infusion of family life in urban Chinatowns such as those in San Francisco, Los Angeles, New York, and Boston. But after China turned Communist in...

    • San Francisco Chinese Papers Blame Immigration Practices in Suicide of Chinese Woman (1948)
      (pp. 233-239)
      Chinese News Service

      [CNS] Editor’s Note: On September 21, a Chinese woman, Leong Bick Ha, wife of a former U.S. Army sergeant, Ng Bak Teung of New York, hanged herself in the immigration detention quarters at 630 Sansome Street, San Francisco. Mrs. Ng (nee Leong) had been detained since her arrival on June 30 pending immigration investigation to confirm her marital status. Her 15-year-old son, Ng Lung Tuck, was held in another part of the building.² The incident occasioned widespread editorial comment in San Francisco’s Chinese-language newspapers, which unanimously condemned existing immigration practices against the Chinese. The following is a roundup in translation...

    • I Want to Marry an American Girl (1955)
      (pp. 240-246)
      Eddie Gong

      I am leaving today for Hong Kong, China, the home of my ancestors. At the request of my parents, and in accordance with ancient Chinese tradition and custom, I am looking for a wife—to be chosen by me from a group of Chinese girls carefully selected by my 80-year-old grandmother, Hoo See, whom I have never met. But, in my own heart, I hope I do not find a wife in Hong Kong. I was born in America, of Chinese parents, and consider myself an American. Therefore, I want to marry an American girl and to choose my wife...

    • My Bitter Experience in the United States (1956)
      (pp. 247-251)
      Hsue-shen Tsien

      On December 16, 1955, a spokesman of the State Department declared that the charges made on the same day by the Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman relating to alien residents of both China and the United States were groundless. Moreover, he said that the American government had faithfully carried out the agreement reached during the ambassador-level meetings in Geneva. What the American government is doing is putting on a false face of respectability before the peace-loving people of the world to trick them into believing that it is a good and moral government. All this reminds me of an old Chinese...

    • Father and Son (1995)
      (pp. 252-258)
      Maurice Chuck

      The Greyhound bus sped along Highway 101 toward Seattle, Washington. However, the destination of Yu Rongzu and son Nianzu was not Seattle, but a town not far away, called Tacoma. Ten years ago, when Nianzu was serving in the Army, he was stationed nearby in Fort Lewis. Almost every weekend he would go to a Chinese restaurant in Tacoma for a Chinese meal. He also applied for his citizenship at the Immigration office there. Who would have thought that ten years later today he would revisit this town because he had to appear in court to defend his rights as...

    • “We gave workers a sense of dignity”: The Story of a Union Social Worker (1982)
      (pp. 259-271)
      Ah Quon McElrath

      I was born in 1915, in Honolulu, in a little spot called Iwilei, which was the official red-light district. And we had a house in an area that was very near the beach, filled withkiawetrees, and it was very convenient. My father was a part-time carpenter, hack driver, egg producer, gambler, alcohol maker—call it what you will, he was all those things. And, I suspect because it was cheap, we lived there for quite a number of years. See, my father died when I was about five, and so we had to make it on our own...

    • “All the daddies were Chinese and all the mommies were white”: Growing Up Biracial in Minnesota (2002)
      (pp. 272-280)
      Sheila Chin Morris

      I remember when I was little, all of our good friends got together for dinners on Sunday afternoons and some holidays. All the daddies were Chinese and all the mommies were white. My mom was of German descent. She was from a small town in Minnesota—Winnebago, Minnesota—and my father left China when he was seventeen. They met in a Chinese restaurant in downtown St. Paul, where she was working as a waitress [and he, a cook]. I remember on Christmas Eve, my dad would always make beef, green pepper, and tomato chop suey because it was red and...

    • “I always felt out of place there”: Growing Up Chinese in Mississippi (1982)
      (pp. 281-291)
      Bonnie C. Lew

      My mom was born in San Francisco Chinatown and lived there all her life until she married my father. My father came over from China when he was ten or twelve. They met in a music club in Chinatown. I was the second born and middle child. I have an older brother who now lives in Concord [California] and a younger sister still in Mississippi. I guess I had a happy childhood in San Francisco, except that I remember staying with my grandmother a lot because both my parents worked. My mother worked during the day at Deb’s Department Store...

    • “It was not a winnable war”: Remembering Vietnam (1998)
      (pp. 292-303)
      Johnny Wong

      I was born on November 22, 1945, in Canton City, China. I immigrated to this country when I was about two and a half; I can vaguely remember living close to Chinatown in a hotel, and then we moved down by the Embarcadero Center in San Francisco. My father ran a laundry, so we were living on top of the laundry. My brother and I stayed in a small room. So I kind of grew up down there until about ten or eleven. Then we moved out here by the tunnel on Geary Boulevard. That was the home that I...

    • “I’m a Chinaman”: An Interview with Frank Chin (1970)
      (pp. 304-311)
      Jeffery Paul Chan

      Why did you come back from Seattle to Chinatown?

      I didn’t come back just to be beaten up . . . I came back because . . . well, there was you [the interviewer, Jeffery Paul Chan] and a few others, and I felt that the Chinese were beginning to speak out more on their own. It seemed that Chinatown was becoming more aware of itself and its own terms. It was also very obvious to me, outside working in an admittedly white world, that the stereotypes were very confining. That even though I was out, a free individual, an...

    • Major Education Problems Facing the Chinese Community (1972)
      (pp. 312-320)
      L. Ling-chi Wang

      Mr. Chairman, my name is L. Ling-chi Wang; I am the director of the Youth Service Center in Chinatown, an organization that works with delinquent and pre-delinquent school youth in the Chinese community in San Francisco. I welcome this opportunity to address this committee on what I consider major educational problems facing the Chinese community—problems facing the community which are deeply embedded in a traditional school system that has been denying equal and quality education to our youth.

      In academic year 1969–70, there were 115,457 students attending the public schools in San Francisco. Of these, 16,574 or 14.4...

    • On the Normalization of Relations between China and the U.S.
      (pp. 321-326)

      On September 18, 1931, Japanese warlords invaded Shenyang in Manchuria. For fourteen long and arduous years, the Republic of China, as constituted by Dr. Sun Yat-sen, resisted the transgressions and massacres committed by Japanese troops and unstintingly gave up millions of human lives and innumerable material possessions to defend national territory and to struggle for the freedom of mankind. Finally, fascism was defeated and victory was achieved. In 1944, in order to “save succeeding generations from the scourge of war, which twice in our lifetime has brought untold sorrow to mankind,”¹ China participated in the Dumbarton Oaks Conference to create...

    • Asian American Women and Revolution: A Personal View (1983)
      (pp. 327-335)
      Sadie Lum

      The position and role that we, Asian women, occupy—our potential and how to tap and unleash our resources and full capabilities—is an important question to understand and address. Failure to do so will cripple the Asian peoples’ struggle for full equality as well as harm the struggle for revolutionary change in the U.S.

      I was asked to share some of my experiences as an Asian woman active in the revolutionary movement withEast Windreaders. I am looking forward to readingEast Wind’s Focus section on Asian women, as it is by sharing and learning from each other’s...

    • “In unity there is strength”: Garment Worker Speaks Out at Union Rally (1982)
      (pp. 336-339)
      Shui Mak Ka

      Dear brothers and sisters of Local 23–25, greetings to all of you!

      On behalf of all sewing factory workers, first please allow me to convey our thanks to our union representatives. The union has been fighting hard for our rights as expressed in the three-year contract. Many of them have been busy working day and night, putting aside their own need to eat and sleep; please give them a big round of applause to express our highest sense of gratitude and respect.

      The three-year contract is something we absolutely must have. We work very hard, and deserve every bit...

    • The Words of a Woman Who Breathes Fire (1983)
      (pp. 340-344)
      Kitty Tsui

      it was not a very formal affair but

      all the women over twelve

      wore long gowns and a corsage,

      except for me.

      it was not a very formal affair, just

      the family getting together,

      poa poa, kuw fuwithoutkuw mow²

      (her excuse this year is a headache).

      aunts and uncles and cousins,

      the grandson who is a dentist,

      the one who drives a mercedes benz,

      sitting down for shark’s fin soup.

      they talk about buying a house and

      taking a two week vacation in beijing.

      i suck on shrimp and squab,

      dreaming of the cloudscape in your eyes.


    • Anti-Asian Violence and the Vincent Chin Case
      (pp. 345-354)

      In 1982, in America, a Chinese American named Vincent Chin was beaten to death with a baseball bat by two men—after being accused by them of causing the unemployment of U.S. autoworkers. His killers were each fined $3,000 and given three years’ probation.

      When news spread of the lenient sentences given for the crime of brutally taking a life, there were storms of protest.

      The Vincent Chin case has come to mean far more to Asian Americans than a failure of the criminal justice system, though this aspect of the case serves as a lesson to all. This case...

    • A Journey of Bitterness (1999)
      (pp. 355-358)
      Lily Wang

      I left China mainly for non-financial reasons. When I was in China, I met an overseas man in a barbershop where I was working, and we developed a very close relationship. Later, he went back to America. When he was about to leave, he promised he would return in a year to marry me and bring me to America. However, I did not hear from him again. I believed he looked down on me. Later, through a flashy guy who came frequently to my hair salon to get his hair done, I made contact with a snakehead [human smuggler] from...

    • Immigrant Women Speak Out on Garment Industry Abuse (1993)
      (pp. 359-362)
      Fu Lee

      Hello, my name is Fu Lee. I am forty-one years old, married, and I have a nine-year old daughter. I have been living in Oakland Chinatown since I left Hong Kong twelve years ago.

      I want to tell you about the kind of exploitative working conditions I have had to endure in the sweatshops. I also want to tell you why me and my co-workers felt we had to stand up against the manufacturers to take responsibility for our loss of jobs and pay.

      I worked as a seamstress at Lucky Sewing Company for two years. Before that, I worked...

    • Chinese and Proud of It (1996)
      (pp. 363-367)
      Jubilee Lau

      It was 11:00 a.m. on January 23, 1983. I lifted the panel to the window on the airplane and timidly peered outside. I glanced back at my parents and my eight-year-old sister sitting beside me and felt reassured by the grins on their faces. My parents began talking excitedly in Cantonese and hugged each other in happiness. We had finally made it to America. Hand in hand, the four of us stepped onto the carpeted floor of the San Francisco International Airport and stared in awe at the people around us. They all spoke English. We, the non-English speakers, were...

    • Learning to See the Man Himself (1997)
      (pp. 368-371)
      Marilee Chang Lin

      As the daughter of parents of Chinese ancestry who was raised in Honolulu, educated on the East Coast, and three and four generations removed from China, I grew up daydreaming about the “all-American boy-next-door.” In our suburban Boston home, that meant a haole [white].

      At the time, Needham, Massachusetts, was hardly a model of ethnic diversity, and through all my years of public school I encountered only a handful of other Asian kids. The prospects for dating a “nice Chinese boy” were slim indeed, and though my maternal grandfather, Goong-goong Thom, occasionally asked me if I had met any of...

    • The Best Tofu in the World Comes from . . . Indiana? (1998)
      (pp. 372-376)
      Ellen D. Wu

      My parents moved to Indianapolis, Indiana, in 1973. At the time there were only a handful of Chinese families in the area—hardly surprising for a mid-size, midwestern metropolis situated in the “Hoosier Heartland,” just eight years after Congress revamped the country’s policy toward Asian immigration. The city’s small number of Asians was only enough to sustain one Asian food market, AB Oriental, which was located on the other side of town from my parents’ home. The nearest Chinatown, in Chicago, required a three-and-a-half-hour road trip. Thus, the familiar foods of my dad’s native Taiwan and my mom’s native Hong...

    • Reflections on Becoming American (1999)
      (pp. 377-382)
      Binh Ha Hong

      My father’s hands are tanned from years in the sun. The blunt edges of his fingernails are closely clipped. Permanent calluses have created a stiff, leathery texture on his palms. Black residue from motor oil lines the cracks and crevices of his nails and fingers. His hands are capable of any task—from dismantling a car’s transmission to rocking a baby back to sleep.

      My mother’s hands are soft and pale from working with fabrics for 16 years. The skin is a bit more elastic, but still as graceful as they were in her youth. They are warm and reassuringly...

    • Affirming Affirmative Action (1995)
      (pp. 383-387)
      Chang-Lin Tien

      I never rode the city buses when I attended the University of Louisville in Kentucky. I had no car, so sometimes I had to walk seemingly endless miles back and forth from the campus to downtown. It was not simply the lack of money that forced me to walk, although I was a poor immigrant when I was accepted as a graduate student there in 1956. Rather, I refused to ride the buses because I found it humiliating.

      Today, I can still recall my shock when I first boarded a city bus and found that whites rode in the front...

    • Countering Complacency: An Interview with OCA Director Daphne Kwok (1996)
      (pp. 388-394)
      Alethea Yip

      OCA was founded in 1973 when the Asian American population was half of what it is now and where there was little political organization among Asian Americans, especially on the national level. How has the agenda of the organization changed over the years?

      Unfortunately, the agenda remains the same. We need to continue to improve the image of Asian Americans and Chinese Americans here in the United States, to seek equal opportunity and equal treatment as Chinese Americans and Asian Americans. I think our mission and role is even more important now with this whole anti-immigrant sentiment that is pervading...

    • “One mile, one hundred years”: Governor Gary Locke’s Inaugural Address (1997)
      (pp. 395-402)

      Mr. President, Mr. Speaker, Madam Chief Justice, distinguished justices of the Supreme Court, statewide elected officials, members of the Washington State Legislature, other elected officials, members of the Consular Corps, fellow citizens, and friends of Washington State across America and around the world:

      I am humbled by the honor of serving as your governor. And I am deeply grateful to all those who have made our American tradition of freedom and democracy possible.

      I also want to express my gratitude to members of my family, and to introduce them to you. First I’d like you to meet my father, Jimmy...

    • A Second-Generation Call to Action (1999)
      (pp. 403-415)
      Kristie Wang

      Most of us who grew up in the United States are quite familiar with the stories of the American civil rights movement. We all are familiar with the courageous tales of Harriet Tubman and the underground railroad, Rosa Parks’s refusal to move to the back of the bus, and Martin Luther King’s march on Selma. We know how individuals like them have brought about dramatic changes in American society.

      Every successful political and social change movement has its own stories of people who stood up in the face of injustice and demanded their rights to dignity and freedom. These stories...

    • The Los Alamos Incident and Its Effects on Chinese American Scientists (2000)
      (pp. 416-422)
      Cheuk-Yin Wong

      On March 6, 1999, theNew York Timesbroke the news about an alleged “Chinese spy.” The attention of the media and the government was soon focused on Dr. Wen Ho Lee of the Los Alamos National Laboratory as the suspect. On March 8, 1999, Dr. Wen Ho Lee was fired from his Los Alamos position. After many months of investigation, Dr. Lee was charged, not for spying, but for mishandling classified information. He has been detained without bail in a New Mexico jail since December 10, 1999.²

      The Los Alamos incident has affected the Chinese American science community adversely...

    • “We are Americans”: The Story behind Time Magazine’s Man of the Year (2003)
      (pp. 423-428)
      David Ho

      My father left the mainland to teach in Taiwan, actually prior to the Communist takeover of the mainland. And my mother was born in central Taiwan in a town called Taichung. They met because he was the teacher and she was the student—an old story. I was born in Taichung, then a sleepy little town in central Taiwan. Today it’s a pretty busy place with a few million people, and the third largest city in Taiwan.

      The educational system in Taiwan is highly competitive, and even at the elementary level we were told that you had to excel, because...

    (pp. 429-436)
    (pp. 437-446)
    (pp. 447-458)
  12. INDEX
    (pp. 459-462)