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Island: Poetry and History of Chinese Immigrants on Angel Island, 1910-1940

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In the early twentieth century, most Chinese immigrants coming to the United States were detained at the Angel Island Immigration Station in San Francisco Bay. There, they were subject to physical exams, interrogations, and often long detentions aimed at upholding the exclusion laws that kept Chinese out of the country. Many detainees recorded their anger and frustrations, In the early twentieth century, most Chinese immigrants coming to the United States were detained at the Angel Island Immigration Station in San Francisco Bay. There, they were subject to physical exams, interrogations, and often long detentions aimed at upholding the exclusion laws that kept Chinese out of the country. Many detainees recorded their anger and frustrations, hopes and despair in poetry written and carved on the barrack walls. Island tells these immigrants' stories while underscoring their relevance to contemporary immigration issues. First published in 1980, this book is now offered in an updated, expanded edition including a new historical introduction, 150 annotated poems in Chinese and English translation, extensive profiles of immigrants gleaned through oral histories, and dozens of new photographs from public archives and family albums. An important historical document as well as a significant work of literature, Island is a testament to the hardships Chinese immigrants endured on Angel Island, their perseverance, and their determination to make a new life in America.


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In the early twentieth century, most Chinese immigrants coming to the United States were detained at the Angel Island Immigration Station in San Francisco Bay. There, they were subject to physical exams, interrogations, and often long detentions aimed at upholding the exclusion laws that kept Chinese out of the country. Many detainees recorded their anger and frustrations, In the early twentieth century, most Chinese immigrants coming to the United States were detained at the Angel Island Immigration Station in San Francisco Bay. There, they were subject to physical exams, interrogations, and often long detentions aimed at upholding the exclusion laws that kept Chinese out of the country. Many detainees recorded their anger and frustrations, hopes and despair in poetry written and carved on the barrack walls. Island tells these immigrants' stories while underscoring their relevance to contemporary immigration issues. First published in 1980, this book is now offered in an updated, expanded edition including a new historical introduction, 150 annotated poems in Chinese and English translation, extensive profiles of immigrants gleaned through oral histories, and dozens of new photographs from public archives and family albums. An important historical document as well as a significant work of literature, Island is a testament to the hardships Chinese immigrants endured on Angel Island, their perseverance, and their determination to make a new life in America.

30 review for Island: Poetry and History of Chinese Immigrants on Angel Island, 1910-1940

  1. 5 out of 5

    Kailey

    Angel Island is never mentioned in schools, but it is just as important as Ellis Island in the history of immigration to the US. The immigration station, which operated from 1910-1940, mainly detained Chinese immigrants, many of whom had to resort to using fraudulent papers to enter the country, and escape poverty and unrest in China, because of the Chinese Exclusion Act. This book contains the poems that immigrants carved into the walls of the detention barracks, as well as oral histories from Angel Island is never mentioned in schools, but it is just as important as Ellis Island in the history of immigration to the US. The immigration station, which operated from 1910-1940, mainly detained Chinese immigrants, many of whom had to resort to using fraudulent papers to enter the country, and escape poverty and unrest in China, because of the Chinese Exclusion Act. This book contains the poems that immigrants carved into the walls of the detention barracks, as well as oral histories from interviews with former detainees. This book gave a voice to the Chinese immigrants who suffered injustice and racism on Angel Island, and is necessary reading for anyone interested in US immigration history or the history of the Chinese in America.

  2. 4 out of 5

    T

    Lucked into a used copy of this book, autographed by all three authors. Details the history of Chinese immigrants who landed at Angel Island while waiting to enter the US. Some were deported, some stayed short periods of time, some stayed long, and their stay was contrasted with the Japanese or Italians entering the company. Pictures, interviews, background and poems in Chinese and translated to English.....the poor Chinese finding the food and shelter to be better than home...Others finding the Lucked into a used copy of this book, autographed by all three authors. Details the history of Chinese immigrants who landed at Angel Island while waiting to enter the US. Some were deported, some stayed short periods of time, some stayed long, and their stay was contrasted with the Japanese or Italians entering the company. Pictures, interviews, background and poems in Chinese and translated to English.....the poor Chinese finding the food and shelter to be better than home...Others finding the conditions deplorable. The use of "coaching" papers and paper relatives....Not so long ago that I don't recall my dad trying to help new immigrants, but soon to be lost with my generation's passing.

  3. 5 out of 5

    Maureen

    I have used this book to introduce my students to the experience of the Chinese immigrants who entered this country throught Angel Island. The tragic story of the detention of these immigrants has not been studied by elementary students as comprehensively as the history of the Ellis Island immigrants. The poetry that was found on the walls of Angel Island conveys the despair and desperation of the detainees when they finally did arrive in America. I often read this poetry to compare and contrast I have used this book to introduce my students to the experience of the Chinese immigrants who entered this country throught Angel Island. The tragic story of the detention of these immigrants has not been studied by elementary students as comprehensively as the history of the Ellis Island immigrants. The poetry that was found on the walls of Angel Island conveys the despair and desperation of the detainees when they finally did arrive in America. I often read this poetry to compare and contrast the poem of Emma Lazarus on the base of the Statue of Liberty. It is a powerful learning experience and illustrates the disparity between the hope symbolized by America's most famous landmark and the actual experience of those whose first American experience was one of humiliation and persecution.

  4. 5 out of 5

    David Marxer

    Although I'm not a poetry fan, I did enjoy this book as a companion to others about Angel Island. The oral history at the end of each chapter was good and I found the notes in the poems themselves most useful. The reader feels that not only were these poets steeped in their own anicent history, but also just how human they were. Although I'm not a poetry fan, I did enjoy this book as a companion to others about Angel Island. The oral history at the end of each chapter was good and I found the notes in the poems themselves most useful. The reader feels that not only were these poets steeped in their own anicent history, but also just how human they were.

  5. 5 out of 5

    John Jung

    anthology of poems carved onto walls of the detention center by Chinese immigrants on Angel Island between 1910 and 1940. Discovered by a park ranger just before the barracks were about to be demolished, these poems, which are a testament of the hardships and alienation of these detained immigrants, have been restored and translated.

  6. 4 out of 5

    Crystal

    Gut wrenching and heart breaking

  7. 5 out of 5

    Cameron Conaway

  8. 4 out of 5

    Wendy Rouse

  9. 5 out of 5

    Noel Mariano

  10. 4 out of 5

    Lillian L Low

  11. 5 out of 5

    Robyn

  12. 4 out of 5

    Sarah Camille

  13. 5 out of 5

    John Ervin

  14. 5 out of 5

    Michelle

  15. 5 out of 5

    E. K. Shang

  16. 5 out of 5

    Ted

  17. 5 out of 5

    Phoebe

  18. 4 out of 5

    Lucinda

  19. 4 out of 5

    Amelia Chaney

  20. 4 out of 5

    Teri Scott

  21. 5 out of 5

    Annabelle

  22. 5 out of 5

    Noreene

  23. 4 out of 5

    Dennis Matthews

  24. 4 out of 5

    Ryan Fong

  25. 4 out of 5

    Andrew

  26. 4 out of 5

    A^2

  27. 5 out of 5

    Miguel

  28. 4 out of 5

    Joyce

  29. 4 out of 5

    Henggao Cai

  30. 4 out of 5

    Brittany Savko

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