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In an epic story that spans 150 years and continues to the present day, Iris Chang tells of a people’s search for a better life—the determination of the Chinese to forge an identity and a destiny in a strange land and, often against great obstacles, to find success. She chronicles the many accomplishments in America of Chinese immigrants and their descendents: building the In an epic story that spans 150 years and continues to the present day, Iris Chang tells of a people’s search for a better life—the determination of the Chinese to forge an identity and a destiny in a strange land and, often against great obstacles, to find success. She chronicles the many accomplishments in America of Chinese immigrants and their descendents: building the infrastructure of their adopted country, fighting racist and exclusionary laws, walking the racial tightrope between black and white, contributing to major scientific and technological advances, expanding the literary canon, and influencing the way we think about racial and ethnic groups. Interweaving political, social, economic, and cultural history, as well as the stories of individuals, Chang offers a bracing view not only of what it means to be Chinese American, but also of what it is to be American.


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In an epic story that spans 150 years and continues to the present day, Iris Chang tells of a people’s search for a better life—the determination of the Chinese to forge an identity and a destiny in a strange land and, often against great obstacles, to find success. She chronicles the many accomplishments in America of Chinese immigrants and their descendents: building the In an epic story that spans 150 years and continues to the present day, Iris Chang tells of a people’s search for a better life—the determination of the Chinese to forge an identity and a destiny in a strange land and, often against great obstacles, to find success. She chronicles the many accomplishments in America of Chinese immigrants and their descendents: building the infrastructure of their adopted country, fighting racist and exclusionary laws, walking the racial tightrope between black and white, contributing to major scientific and technological advances, expanding the literary canon, and influencing the way we think about racial and ethnic groups. Interweaving political, social, economic, and cultural history, as well as the stories of individuals, Chang offers a bracing view not only of what it means to be Chinese American, but also of what it is to be American.

30 review for The Chinese in America: A Narrative History

  1. 4 out of 5

    Zach Zhao

    Reading this book breaks my heart. As someone who was born in China and has spent the last four years in an American university, I can truly appreciate the stories that Iris Chang was telling in this book. Some of the stories happened in the distant past, yet somehow they still feel so familiar, the wounds so raw and the sufferings so personal. What this book managed to construct is the complex and diverse history of a group of people, who despite such complexity and diversity ultimately pursue Reading this book breaks my heart. As someone who was born in China and has spent the last four years in an American university, I can truly appreciate the stories that Iris Chang was telling in this book. Some of the stories happened in the distant past, yet somehow they still feel so familiar, the wounds so raw and the sufferings so personal. What this book managed to construct is the complex and diverse history of a group of people, who despite such complexity and diversity ultimately pursue the same dream: to make a better life for themselves and for their families. And the foreign land where they imagined their dreams would finally be fulfilled is also the same land where their dreams eventually get dashed, at least for some of them, at least for many of them. The Gold Rush. The Transcontinental Railway. The Chinese Exclusion Act. The often bloody history of American Chinatowns. The "Model Minority". Behind each and every one of them are names that I could not forget - they are the names of pioneers, heroes and victims, they are the names of many people who came before me so that my own dream of making a better life will somehow become more likely to come true. And then, like any story in history, there are always those whose names will never be recorded or remembered. Nameless lives. Nameless dreams. Nameless deaths. It is to these people that this book pays its ultimate tribute - an ode to their lives, a song to their dreams, a psalm to their deaths, which will never be in vain and which shall never be forgotten.

  2. 4 out of 5

    Annette

    I was feeling resentful that the Chinese were coming into America and taking advantage of the devaluation of our property and buying up everything; starting businesses here and "taking over". Found this book in the library in my community library, was attracted by the title and started to read it. I am 3/4th the way through it and I have done a 360 on the presence of the Chinese here now. They earned their place. The book is not about recently emigration, but it goes back in history to the early I was feeling resentful that the Chinese were coming into America and taking advantage of the devaluation of our property and buying up everything; starting businesses here and "taking over". Found this book in the library in my community library, was attracted by the title and started to read it. I am 3/4th the way through it and I have done a 360 on the presence of the Chinese here now. They earned their place. The book is not about recently emigration, but it goes back in history to the early 1800's when so many came here to mine gold and build the railroad. These poor people were treated worse than animal, but continued their plight for centuries not getting recognized as a viable human until recent years. By recent I mean as recent as 1990. This is a must read for all American, white. We have treated those that are not like us is such an inhuman way I hardly want to put myself in that class. Well written; dates jump around but not so much that it is hard to follow and the author did the research on historical events that are factual and meaningful.

  3. 5 out of 5

    Staci Woodburn-Henry

    This was such an interesting book and I really enjoyed reading it. It broke my heart to learn so much about people who have suffered so much however. It focused on Chinese Americans and Taiwanese Americans primarily, but gives insight into the plight of all peoples who come from depressed or corrupt countries looking for something better for their families only to be greeted with jeers of "get back on the boat" and laws that prevent them from ever living the American Dream. I gave it three stars This was such an interesting book and I really enjoyed reading it. It broke my heart to learn so much about people who have suffered so much however. It focused on Chinese Americans and Taiwanese Americans primarily, but gives insight into the plight of all peoples who come from depressed or corrupt countries looking for something better for their families only to be greeted with jeers of "get back on the boat" and laws that prevent them from ever living the American Dream. I gave it three stars primarily because the author is so pro-Chinese. There is a palpable bias that as trained historian (albeit a grad-school dropout) I can't accept wholeheartedly, but that did not take away from the overall experience of reading this book.

  4. 4 out of 5

    Marie Hew

    I bought this book shortly after it was published in 2003. I even went to a reading by Iris Chang and got her to autograph it along with my copy of The Rape of Nanking. I shelved it and hadn't touched it since. I thought I knew all about the major events and themes of Chinese American history. I wasn't so interested in reading another rendition of gold miner struggles and exploitation of Chinese laborers on the railroad. I was wrong. I really enjoyed how Chang wove together a continuous narrative I bought this book shortly after it was published in 2003. I even went to a reading by Iris Chang and got her to autograph it along with my copy of The Rape of Nanking. I shelved it and hadn't touched it since. I thought I knew all about the major events and themes of Chinese American history. I wasn't so interested in reading another rendition of gold miner struggles and exploitation of Chinese laborers on the railroad. I was wrong. I really enjoyed how Chang wove together a continuous narrative of the first Chinese who came to America during the Gold Rush and more recently the geeks of the technological boom years. Intermittently she also inserts anecdotes from her own family to give a personal touch and flush out the diversity of the Chinese in America yesterday, today and beyond. The most valuable sections of the book tells the story of the Chinese from the post-1965 era. Chang could have easily written her book exclusively from that point on, but going back to the beginning helps put our history in context of the big picture of Chinese America and the mainstream national narrative. If anything, reading this book gave me a greater appreciation and connection to the Chinese who came before me and those who will continue to arrive in years to come. Such a shame Chang is no longer here to enlighten us with her research and proses.

  5. 5 out of 5

    christine

    Iris and her parents were family friends of my parents. My parents and their peers are documented in Chapter 15 and several others in this book in the 2nd wave of Chinese immigration to the U.S. This book was an excellent book - an easy read for anyone interested in the very different waves of Chinese immmigration to the U.S. and where we all ended up.

  6. 5 out of 5

    Matthew

    As good as the author's book on Nanking. Comprehensive, but full of individual anecdotes, too. As good as the author's book on Nanking. Comprehensive, but full of individual anecdotes, too.

  7. 4 out of 5

    Christopher Saunders

    Panoramic narrative of Chinese American immigration and settlement from the 19th Century to the present. Chang (The Rape of Nanking) shows the earliest major wave of Chinese immigration in the 1840s, in response both to political unrest at home and a hope of striking it rich in the California Gold Rush. Like most immigrants from everywhere, the Chinese entertained fantastic visions of America as a Land of Opportunity, belied by the squalid reality. From the start, Chinese Americans faced racism, Panoramic narrative of Chinese American immigration and settlement from the 19th Century to the present. Chang (The Rape of Nanking) shows the earliest major wave of Chinese immigration in the 1840s, in response both to political unrest at home and a hope of striking it rich in the California Gold Rush. Like most immigrants from everywhere, the Chinese entertained fantastic visions of America as a Land of Opportunity, belied by the squalid reality. From the start, Chinese Americans faced racism, from beatings and lynchings to harsh immigration laws and full-on pogroms; companies and elites exploited men for cheap menial labor and women as prostitutes and sex slaves, which in turn fanned working class resentment of Chinese "stealing" American jobs and corrupting them with disease and foreign ideology. Nevertheless, the Chinese Americans persisted, finding ways to assert their independence: proving their mettle as laborers on the Union Pacific, establishing niches in small businesses (Chang spends much time charting the rise of Chinese laundries and restaurants) and engaging in political and legal activism that overturned the strictest of anti-Chinese laws - a legacy which allowed their descendants to excel in a variety of diverse fields (from I.M. Pei and Jerry Yang to Anna May Wong, Gary Locke and Amy Tan). Despite this, the bigotry merely took other forms: Chinese drawn to America by a promise of education found professional opportunities limited (being denied management positions, for instance, in corporations and tech companies) and themselves suspect as potential spies or generally "un-American" (Chang revisits the story of Tsien Hsue-shen, the rocket scientist deported on false charges of espionage, only to develop China's missile program, which she chronicled at book-length in Thread of the Silkworm). Chang shows the double-edged sword of Chinese American identity: hard-working, proud of their accomplishments and heritage, but pigeonholed by "Model Minority" stereotypes perpetrated by a white-dominated society that still denies their individuality and rarely treats them as full equals. A remarkable, important blend of history and sociology.

  8. 5 out of 5

    Lillian

    Before I picked up this book, I knew token bits and pieces of Chinese American history, namely, the obvious stuff like the transcontinental railroad, Angel Island, model minority labeling, etc. Iris Chang's book put these tidbits into context and filled in the vast gaps in my knowledge. Chang traces Chinese immigration to the United States from the time of the Qing dynasty to 2003, clearly explaining the historical events in China and Taiwan that sparked each successive wave of migration. Along Before I picked up this book, I knew token bits and pieces of Chinese American history, namely, the obvious stuff like the transcontinental railroad, Angel Island, model minority labeling, etc. Iris Chang's book put these tidbits into context and filled in the vast gaps in my knowledge. Chang traces Chinese immigration to the United States from the time of the Qing dynasty to 2003, clearly explaining the historical events in China and Taiwan that sparked each successive wave of migration. Along the way, I learned about the Chinese Exclusion Act, the rise and fall of America's Chinatowns, and the struggle of Chinese Americans in the segregated South to navigate its stark black or white categories. The most interesting parts of the book for me focused on the question of Chinese American activism. African Americans and Latino Americans have a rich history of engagement in the struggle for civil and labor rights. But the Asian American community has always struck me as reluctant, if not downright apathetic, about engaging in social and political activism. In her book, Chang highlights several examples of Chinese American activism (e.g., "Rice Bowl" parties during World War II, the Third World Liberation Front at SFSU, the civil rights work of Grace Lee Boggs), but she also suggests that Chinese and Taiwanese Americans have traditionally avoided social and political activism because of their fear of government reprisal--a fear that was repeatedly borne out in their home countries. In the wake of an anti-Chinese American backlash following the 2001 spy-plane incident, Chang wonders if the Chinese American community needs to do some soul-searching. "Could their own memories of repressive regimes in Asia have nudged them toward a safe haven of political apathy in the United States?...Was it, perhaps, short-sighted to discourage their children from careers in the media and the arts, careers that could influence public perception of Chinese Americans, in favor of the more anonymous fields of science and technology?" I'm grateful that Chang herself chose a career in the arts and captured this history, a history that most Americans--including Chinese Americans--know so little about.

  9. 4 out of 5

    Kevin

    What struck me most about this book was the degree to which the Chinese have been and still are an extreme minority in America. Thus, I think, the difficulty of carving out a distinct “Chinese American” identity, as narratives and perceptions are so strongly defined by the broader histories and cultures of the much larger and much more powerful forces of China and America themselves. And the difficulty of living that identity, being constantly pulled back and forth by those two forces, whether w What struck me most about this book was the degree to which the Chinese have been and still are an extreme minority in America. Thus, I think, the difficulty of carving out a distinct “Chinese American” identity, as narratives and perceptions are so strongly defined by the broader histories and cultures of the much larger and much more powerful forces of China and America themselves. And the difficulty of living that identity, being constantly pulled back and forth by those two forces, whether we like it or not.

  10. 5 out of 5

    Jason Chiang

    I'm about halfway thru the book as of today (9/27/17) and it's a must-read for every Chinese, Chinese-American, someone married to one, or if you're just interested in this topic. It contains rich history on the Chinese experience in this country (US) going back to Gold Rush days AND it explains why a people would want to come to America during that time; it explains how chaotic, dysfunctional, dangerous, and impoverished China was during the late Qing/Manchu dynasty and the decline of China's s I'm about halfway thru the book as of today (9/27/17) and it's a must-read for every Chinese, Chinese-American, someone married to one, or if you're just interested in this topic. It contains rich history on the Chinese experience in this country (US) going back to Gold Rush days AND it explains why a people would want to come to America during that time; it explains how chaotic, dysfunctional, dangerous, and impoverished China was during the late Qing/Manchu dynasty and the decline of China's status in the world at that time. Most of the book (so far) is in the perspective of Chinese from the Canton region, since that is where 99.9999% of the Chinese came from for most of the history of Chinese immigration to the US. BTW, this book is not about the Chinese diaspora (also during the Qing dynasty, a truly dysfunctional period in Chinese history) to other areas of the world (e.g. Southeast Asia, Phillippines, Singapore, Taiwan, etc), just the US. There is still plenty of material for the author to dive deep into. One of the topics that really struck me is the level of discrimination that the Chinese faced not even one century ago. It started out pretty bad in the early 1800s and just got progressively worse by the late 1800s and throughout to about WWII. It really highlights how racist America was in the 1800s and 1900s, much more than it is today. It's not even a close comparison. We think that the US is undergoing a "racist revival" now, but it really was truly magnitudes much worse back then. We have come a long way and I hope that the US will continue a path of being more enlightened and color-blind, especially in regards to opportunities to succeed and interact in an increasing multi-cultural society. It makes me really admire the fortitude and grit of the early Chinese immigrants to this country. I thought I worked my ass off, but these guys (happened to be mostly guys, since our government was quite discriminatory then and made it very difficult for their wives and other family members from entering this country) have me beat big-time. In comparison to my experience with race-based adversity, I felt some discrimination growing up, but mostly it was school-yard bullying, and I never felt truly isolated since I had non-Chinese friends who would stick up for me. What these early immigrants experienced was true discrimination, and in some cases, genocide. Again, what truly inspires me is the level of adversity they faced and despite that, some truly achieved success. Sadly, the bar of expectation was probably pretty low, since life back in China was quite despicable, with close to zero chances of improving one's status in life. The book is also impressive because it covers a topic that I don't think I've ever read about (and overall I consider myself very well-read) -- which is, the effect of the remittances (from these Chinese immigrants) back to their families and society back in China. While their husbands and fathers were slaving away in the US, the families back home who were lucky to receive their hard-earned money were blowing it away and chasing the Joneses. Some of the family members never knew how hard that their relatives were working in the US, and some of that was by design. For example, some of the Chinese families back in Canton were climbing the social ladder and were becoming increasingly spoiled, thinking that their relatives in the US were moguls, when in fact, they were manually washing clothes, doing heavy manual labor in the fields, risking their lives in railroad construction in the mountains and deserts, and other quite menial tasks that they were limited to, and at significantly lower pay rates compared to other races (i.e. whites) due to extreme discrimination. The immigrants, on the other hand, had to maintain a delusional "saving face" situation of continuing to funnel money back to their old country families while not getting to enjoy much of the fruits of their (significant and back-breaking) labor. Unfortunately, some of these attitudes still persist today, such as many in my parents' generation. Again, I emphasize that I am about 60% through the book (not including the notes and bibliography) so this review is not complete yet. I look forward to the rest of the book and I think that Iris Chang is a very detailed and skilled story-teller. After I finish this book, I plan on reading her other well-known work, the "Rape of Nanking." Update: On finishing the book today, my overall impression of the book has not changed. I think it is excellently written, with in-depth research including history that has not been well documented in other sources, although with some detectable bias.

  11. 5 out of 5

    Camellia Schwartzman

    I read this book for my nonfiction English book project. I am currently finishing the project by creating a scrapbook. I think the book has opened my eyes to many awful events and it is very well informed. What I found to be the most depressing is Iris’s own life story. I actually listened to a talk she gave on YouTube from 2003 and wondered why she hadn’t written anything new or spoken out any time recently. Then I did some extra research and it changed my perspective while I was in the end of I read this book for my nonfiction English book project. I am currently finishing the project by creating a scrapbook. I think the book has opened my eyes to many awful events and it is very well informed. What I found to be the most depressing is Iris’s own life story. I actually listened to a talk she gave on YouTube from 2003 and wondered why she hadn’t written anything new or spoken out any time recently. Then I did some extra research and it changed my perspective while I was in the end of the book.

  12. 4 out of 5

    biscuit

    This book provides a good primer for such a broad and complex topic. Not unlike Zinn's "A People's History"in structure, this book looks at the intertwining history of China and the United States and the evolution of the Chinese American but is less dense in its material and focuses more on individual stories and accounts to punctuate the times and experiences of Chinese Americans. For its size, it is a surprisingly quick read. The writing is easy to follow and colloquial in its tone. Chang's pa This book provides a good primer for such a broad and complex topic. Not unlike Zinn's "A People's History"in structure, this book looks at the intertwining history of China and the United States and the evolution of the Chinese American but is less dense in its material and focuses more on individual stories and accounts to punctuate the times and experiences of Chinese Americans. For its size, it is a surprisingly quick read. The writing is easy to follow and colloquial in its tone. Chang's passion for the topic is obvious. Sometimes, especially as the history moves towards contemporary times, Chang's voice becomes much stronger in her assessments which marks her biases more apparent. Near the end, I felt that her opinion was a little too black and white. However Chang doesn't pretend to be an unbiased historian, or any kind of historian for that matter. Her other book, "The Rape of Nanking", is also heavily biased in its retelling of the under-represented side of WWII. She is a journalist telling a story and adding her voice to an active dialog about and bringing attention to systemic racial and social injustice. Throughout the entire book, it was difficult to not remember her death. Her strong voice makes it hard to forget how she chose to end her life, which occurred the year after this book was originally published, and the same year it came out in paperback. It is particularly sad to read the last chapter about the possible future of Asian Americans and her thoughtful acknowledgments knowing this. Overall, the book is definitely worth reading— a good starting point for more refined inquiry and a good general overview of a minority generally ignored by mainstream media.

  13. 5 out of 5

    Maira

    "Traditionally, the best students in CA had viewed Berkeley and other UC schools as safety nets in case they were rejected by more prestigious universities such as Stanford, Cal Tech, MIT, and the Ivy League schools. For years, the only requirement for admission to Berkeley or UCLA was graduation within the top 12.5 percent of one's high school class. Given the high concentration of Chinese and other Asian Americans on the West Coast, their numbers soared, within the Univ. of CA system. Between "Traditionally, the best students in CA had viewed Berkeley and other UC schools as safety nets in case they were rejected by more prestigious universities such as Stanford, Cal Tech, MIT, and the Ivy League schools. For years, the only requirement for admission to Berkeley or UCLA was graduation within the top 12.5 percent of one's high school class. Given the high concentration of Chinese and other Asian Americans on the West Coast, their numbers soared, within the Univ. of CA system. Between 1966 and 1980, for example, the percentage of Asian American undergraduates at Berkeley had quadrupled from about 5 percent to 20 percent of the students. According to the New York Times in 1981, Berkeley officials fully expected 40 percent of the entering freshman class to be Asian American by 1990. But suddenly, in the mid-1980s, the pattern reversed and the numbers abruptly dropped" (330-331).

  14. 4 out of 5

    Jaybird Rex

    A couple years back, having read Chang's Rape of Nanking, and having freshly moved to the San Francisco Bay Area, this one was on my short list. The first half of the book is a fascinating ride through largely-unknown parts of American history. Chang's writing makes for an effortless, page-turning read. However, I felt this slowed as we moved into the second half. The style became decidedly more journalistic and I found myself really skimming the last pages. That said, the mix of subject matter A couple years back, having read Chang's Rape of Nanking, and having freshly moved to the San Francisco Bay Area, this one was on my short list. The first half of the book is a fascinating ride through largely-unknown parts of American history. Chang's writing makes for an effortless, page-turning read. However, I felt this slowed as we moved into the second half. The style became decidedly more journalistic and I found myself really skimming the last pages. That said, the mix of subject matter and clean and competent writing make for a book worth the time.

  15. 4 out of 5

    Ellis

    I really liked this book. I was glad to learn more about the large contribution that the Chinese and Chinese Americans have made to the United States. Unfortunately though, just when you think you've become aware of the majority of bigotry, prejudice, and opression in the US, you read a book like this and find out how naive your assumption was. I really liked this book. I was glad to learn more about the large contribution that the Chinese and Chinese Americans have made to the United States. Unfortunately though, just when you think you've become aware of the majority of bigotry, prejudice, and opression in the US, you read a book like this and find out how naive your assumption was.

  16. 4 out of 5

    Tsuiyuan Huang

    I got this book from the library this summer. It has 400 pages plus another 100 pages of references. But it was easy reading. I like how Chang correlates the timelines of events in China and U.S. I particularly like reading the anecdotes, some amusing and many heartbreaking. A very well researched history book and a captivating read. I give it 5 stars.

  17. 4 out of 5

    Wendy

    Finished this book over vacation - amazing from beginning to end. Chang's ability to connect broad sweeps of history, both domestic and abroad, to individual vignettes is really impressive. Finished this book over vacation - amazing from beginning to end. Chang's ability to connect broad sweeps of history, both domestic and abroad, to individual vignettes is really impressive.

  18. 5 out of 5

    Angelina

    This was an excellent book. Extremely eye-opening. It's amazing to see how much of American history your high school classes don't discuss. This was an excellent book. Extremely eye-opening. It's amazing to see how much of American history your high school classes don't discuss.

  19. 5 out of 5

    tinabot

    Great book! It's unfortunate the author is no longer living. I would have liked to meet her. From my review of this book: http://www.8asians.com/2011/12/20/mis... Iris Chang’s book The Chinese in America is one of the very few books that chronicles a major Asian American community, the Chinese Americans. Of course, no one book could fully capture the incredible diversity of the Chinese American category and all the people who populate (or are made to populate) it, but this book definitely does a gr Great book! It's unfortunate the author is no longer living. I would have liked to meet her. From my review of this book: http://www.8asians.com/2011/12/20/mis... Iris Chang’s book The Chinese in America is one of the very few books that chronicles a major Asian American community, the Chinese Americans. Of course, no one book could fully capture the incredible diversity of the Chinese American category and all the people who populate (or are made to populate) it, but this book definitely does a great job of covering most of that diversity as well as filling a gaping hole in American history and collective consciousness. Nevertheless, I was a little surprised to find how unrepresented I was in this book. Let me explain. I’m Taiwanese American, which means I’m of “ethnic” Chinese heritage (whatever that means), and my ancestors have been born in Taiwan for about six generations back. A quick glance of the table of contents of the book shows that Chang has all of Chapter 16 dedicated to the Taiwanese Americans, so it would seem that my little nook of Chinese America is nicely explored in the book. Unfortunately, it is not. Although Chapter 16 focuses primarily on Taiwanese Americans, it really only focuses on one particular group of Taiwanese Americans–the ones who left China to escape Communist rule by going to Taiwan and then left for the United States after that. They’re characterized as more highly educated and more well-off, and even if they lost everything in the move from China to Taiwan, they had more socio-political and intellectual capital than the country bumpkin Chinese ethnics or indigenous peoples that were already on the slow-paced, agrarian island before their arrival. As it always is in history, the natives were oppressed by the newcomers. The oppressed would be my ancestors. (To be fair, when my ancestors arrived on Taiwan, they were the oppressors of the indigenous natives.) My grandparents were subjects of the Japanese empire when Taiwan was a Japanese territory (won from China), and they were more fluent in the Japanese language than Taiwanese (Minan) or Mandarin Chinese. Then when the flight of the Chinese from communist China came after World War II, my parents were the ones who grew up under a totalitarian Kuo Min Tang regime who mass murdered dissidents and indoctrinated the local children to not speak anything but Mandarin Chinese and to praise Chiang Kai Shek and Sun Yat Sen as their saviors and political gods. The kicking out of the Republic of China from the United Nations and Jimmy Carter’s US recognition of the People’s Republic of China as a legitimate ruling government of China was the impetus for my family to move to the United States. So that brings us to me, the Taiwanese American that does not have super educated parents who came as intellectuals or professors or high level engineers, doctors, scientists and knowledge workers. My parents are the quintessential American small business owners, very mom and pop. I’m the Taiwanese American that speaks Taiwanese (Minan) at home and didn’t learn Mandarin Chinese fluently until college. I’m the Taiwanese American that doesn’t have stories of how my family fled China and the Communists but instead my childhood was full of stories of how my predecessors were brutalized and ruled over by the Kuo Min Tang instead, how my parents wore signs at school that said “I was bad because I spoke Taiwanese”. I’m a huge fan of Iris Chang’s work, having read both this book and the Rape of Nanking when it came out in 1997. While reading The Chinese in America, I was elated to learn how integral the Chinese American history was to the American history and heartbroken to see again and again those accomplishments and contributions to this great nation never recognized as American at the core. When I got to that Taiwanese American chapter, I was on the edge of my seat, thinking “Here’s my part!”, but in all honesty I was disappointed to see that the particular and substantial Taiwanese American community that I belonged to was barely referenced at all in a chapter dedicated to Taiwanese Americans. We got swallowed up in a bigger majority group that dominated socially, politically, culturally and intellectually. Also, I felt there was also a missing chapter about the Chinese in America hailing from other continents and countries. In my own personal experience and life, I’m always interacting with ethnic Chinese who are here in America after their families had spent a substantial amount of time in another country such as South East Asian countries, other East Asian countries, and South America. There are so many Americans that are ethnic Chinese who came from Korea, Japan, Philippines, Malaysia, Vietnam, Brazil…basically my friends and neighbors. I think as a Taiwanese American who came from generations of ethnic Chinese who lived in Taiwan, I’m part of that group of ethnic Chinese who left China generations earlier and then made it to America in subsequent generations. It’s my impression of Chang’s book that it focuses most heavily on the Chinese that came more directly to America from China, neglecting this whole other alternate stream of Chinese Americans that I think has made a substantial addition to the American population, mainly because I’m surrounded by them everyday. This is my reading of the book, and of course, if Chang was still with us today, I think she would appreciate such feedback, and being the amazing writer and scholar she was, would have come out with a new edition that better addressed these gaps. It is our great loss that she is no longer with us, but I definitely cherish and honor what she has done, digging out the bloodied bricks of the past and building a monument of our heritage to remind us of where we all come from. The cost of her efforts were excruciatingly high, as she exchanged her soul and lifeblood for the dark pieces of history she revitalized for us. For me, I know she has indeed made a priceless contribution to my identity and who I will become in the future. R.I.P. Iris Chang 3/28/68 – 11/9/04.

  20. 5 out of 5

    Stephen

    Like most Americans, my earliest notion of the Chinese in America is an association with the Transcontinental railroad. As it happened, their story begins before that, with the California gold rush. Poor Chinese men, having caught wind of the bonanza in California, made their way to "Gold Mountain" in hopes of making a fortune and returning to China with it. While many hit the jackpot and returned, still others made another home in America, becoming actors in its story. In The Chinese in America Like most Americans, my earliest notion of the Chinese in America is an association with the Transcontinental railroad. As it happened, their story begins before that, with the California gold rush. Poor Chinese men, having caught wind of the bonanza in California, made their way to "Gold Mountain" in hopes of making a fortune and returning to China with it. While many hit the jackpot and returned, still others made another home in America, becoming actors in its story. In The Chinese in America, Iris Chang superbly runs together three threads: a history of China, as the decline of the last empire and the resulting civil strife (including war) created a need for opportunities and safety to be found abroad; the history of the United States, lassoing in the West and needing all the railroad men, miners, and farmers it could get; and the story of the generations who traveled from one nation to the other, attempting to adjust to a new country without losing their heritage. It is an admirable story of perseverance amid bewilderment and hardship. The earliest Chinese visitors to the United States came not to flee wicked oppression in China, but to make money on Gold Mountain and go home rich men. A few did strike it lucky and retire wealthy, but many more stayed. Although most of the Chinese who settled in the United States remained on the west coast, not all congregated in urban Chinatowns. They searched for opportunity wherever it might be found; working farms and ranches, mines and railroads, and - occasionally -- even finding their way to New England and the South. There, despite racially-orientated legislation, they found tacit acceptance, safe in their ambiguous status. That changed in the 1870s, when a depression set teeth on edge and prompted unemployed laborers to blame the cheap labor flooding in from the East. The Chinese Exclusion Act followed, barring most immigration from Asia. Strict quotas were imposed, and only certain professions were entirely welcome. The Exclusion act would hold until the 1940s, when the United States and the Chinese people became allies, both targets of Japanese imperialism. (Shortly after World War 2, racial limitations on immigration were ended altogether. even as the war and those which followed generated anti-Asian prejudice) As one generation pushed the frontier by breaching the Rocky Mountains, linking the coasts and allowing agriculture to prosper in the west, another stretched it still further in aviation and software engineering. Chang doesn't limit herself to politics and economics; a strong reliance on oral history imparts a good dose of social history, as well, like the evolution of "Chinese" food. The Chinese-American story is not one I have any experience with -- the South's Asian population is predominately Korean and Vietnamese, at least in my neck of the woods. What little I knew came from histories of San Francisco (particularly Good Life in Hard Times, with a section on Chinese gangs). This was, then, a welcome introduction to another aspect of America's mosaic.

  21. 5 out of 5

    Scott

    Being four generations removed from my ancestral homeland of the Guangdong (Canton) province in South China, it's difficult to relate to some of my Chinese heritage. I would often joke that my Caucasian roommate in college was in many ways more Chinese than me. And while I have a list of several things I'd like to do to reconnect with my roots: learn basic Chinese, visit my ancestral village, etc., I found that reading "The Chinese in America" has been an excellent launching point for learning w Being four generations removed from my ancestral homeland of the Guangdong (Canton) province in South China, it's difficult to relate to some of my Chinese heritage. I would often joke that my Caucasian roommate in college was in many ways more Chinese than me. And while I have a list of several things I'd like to do to reconnect with my roots: learn basic Chinese, visit my ancestral village, etc., I found that reading "The Chinese in America" has been an excellent launching point for learning where I came from and how I ended up here. Tracing the history of the Chinese in America from the Gold Rush to today, Chang writes in an engaging fashion that relates so closely with many of my family's experiences. As I read, I thought about my great-grandparents who immigrated to the San Francisco Bay Area via the infamous Angel Island "immigration station", settling down and starting a restaurant. I thought about their children, which included my grandmother, the first generation born in America. Many of my grand aunts and uncles worked tirelessly at the restaurant and undoubtedly struggled at times socially with their identity as Americans under the care of Chinese immigrant parents. I thought of my paternal grandfather who served admirably in the Army during World War II, in Japan of all places, where anti-Japanese hostility and racism could have easily gotten him mistaken for the enemy. He served his country with pride and was discharged at the conclusion of the war with multiple honors and a purple heart. I thought of my maternal grandparents who ran a store in San Francisco. Though racial tensions were at a high, and anti-Japanese sentiment were prevalent both among Americans and Chinese, my grandparents never ever mistreated or refused a Japanese customer, or a customer of any ethnicity. And I thought of me, a 4th (or 3rd?) generation American-born Chinese. As an engineer living in the Bay Area, how will my story fit into this narrative? I appreciated the fact that Chang also writes about what was happening elsewhere in the world. Because anthropology, especially Chinese anthropology, is so global, Chang does well to show the ripples world events made in the migration of the Chinese to America, and in turn, the ripples Chinese immigration in America made throughout the world. On a less positive note, Chang frequently notes about the acts of racism and injustice committed against the Chinese. From the very first settlers during the Gold Rush to today, racism in some form has always existed. It's a true, but painful conclusion to such a rich narrative, but it shows that while Chinese-American relations have come a long way, there is still so far to go.

  22. 5 out of 5

    marcia

    just about finished with this book. I keep thinking of the laws that were passed and how many parts of american history are left unknown to most americans. As an avid history reader , my eyes were opened to so much I did not know about the emigration of Chinese to America and the obstacles they overcame and may be still overcoming. A comprehensive history written so elegantly and easily understood.

  23. 5 out of 5

    Agatha

    A very extensive narrative of the history of Chinese immigration in America, beginning around the mid-1800s (helping to build the transcontinental railroad) up to present time. Even though it’s nonfiction, it’s very, very readable. I personally found it fascinating. It was particularly interesting to read U.S. history thru a different lens, as if listening to a well-told story this time from a new story teller. Fascinating – and really instructive. A lot of Americans who feel threatened by Chine A very extensive narrative of the history of Chinese immigration in America, beginning around the mid-1800s (helping to build the transcontinental railroad) up to present time. Even though it’s nonfiction, it’s very, very readable. I personally found it fascinating. It was particularly interesting to read U.S. history thru a different lens, as if listening to a well-told story this time from a new story teller. Fascinating – and really instructive. A lot of Americans who feel threatened by Chinese immigration – or who view them as “johnny-come-latelies” in the U.S.-- should read this book. But I suppose it would not hold as much personal interest for the general American reader. :( Oh well. I suppose I can understand that. :( Anyway, the author herself is a fascinating study; she has also written The Rape of Nanking which is also very highly esteemed. Unfortunately, she committed suicide while researching her next book, based upon the Bataan Death March. It seems she overworked herself and fell into depression and paranoia. :( Truly a really sad and tragic loss. :( I want to look for her RoN book and also a biography about her. (Matthew had heard of her before I had; when he saw this book, he said, “Isn’t she the one who committed suicide?” I didn’t know that sad aspect of her story but looked it up and then learned the rest of her history. :()

  24. 5 out of 5

    Cavak

    Required reading for anyone who doesn't want to believe that racial profiling or immigration affects the government rulings. If you don't want to listen to the African-Americans or the Native Americans, then listen to the voices of the Chinese-Americans. Chang has provided you with a 400+ page testimony from several dozens of sources with a cool and detailed narrative, before an angry rhetoric has entered the scene. She could have been more graphic, but it is told in an even-mannered way that I t Required reading for anyone who doesn't want to believe that racial profiling or immigration affects the government rulings. If you don't want to listen to the African-Americans or the Native Americans, then listen to the voices of the Chinese-Americans. Chang has provided you with a 400+ page testimony from several dozens of sources with a cool and detailed narrative, before an angry rhetoric has entered the scene. She could have been more graphic, but it is told in an even-mannered way that I think anyone could learn from it. It may be a little dated and it may glorify the "China that once was" a little for my liking, but it's still a valuable narrative about the shadows of "the land of the free". I can only hope that everyone sees the unsettling parallels, that today's justifications for travel bans, deportations, and so forth are the same ones that have been repeated by judges, lawyers, and politicians for centuries within this book. Just change the wording here and there, and you can imagine some of these phrases being uttered today. That is upsetting. Please read and be informed. Take a good look at the responsibility we have as people within our history. It is the best way that we can honor Chang's memory. Watch a recording of Chang talking about this book here: https://youtu.be/9h8LVorTecE?t=5m15s

  25. 4 out of 5

    Jennifer

    I should just admit that I'm not going to finish this book and return it to the library. However, the reason I'm not going to finish the book has nothing to do with the book and everything to do with me. Chang's writing is informative and interesting. While I KNEW there with immigrants from China in late 1800s, it was only something I knew about it in so far as I also know there is a moon. Now I have a better understanding of why so many people decided to immigrate and what happened to them when I should just admit that I'm not going to finish this book and return it to the library. However, the reason I'm not going to finish the book has nothing to do with the book and everything to do with me. Chang's writing is informative and interesting. While I KNEW there with immigrants from China in late 1800s, it was only something I knew about it in so far as I also know there is a moon. Now I have a better understanding of why so many people decided to immigrate and what happened to them when here. I lost interest because I wasn't reading the book for each generation's immigrant story but to find out what happened to the children of the earliest immigrants, especially those who had settled in far flung regions of the US. For example, there is a picture of a young bride in Boise and I'd love to know what the story of her descendents is, but the focused mainly on Chinese-Americans living in Los Angeles, San Fransisco, New York, etc. when she talked about the lives of the non-immigrant Chinese Americans.

  26. 5 out of 5

    Liz

    Chang's expansive history of Chinese-Americans and their American history is an essential book, beautifully researched and written and gives a strong voice to the Chinese narrative in the United States. From before Gold Mountain until the technological dot-com bubble, Chang traces how the ambitions, fears, lives, and deaths of Chinese immigrants and their descendants are woven into the very fabric of American society and geography. She sheds light on the persecution of Chinese-Americans and illu Chang's expansive history of Chinese-Americans and their American history is an essential book, beautifully researched and written and gives a strong voice to the Chinese narrative in the United States. From before Gold Mountain until the technological dot-com bubble, Chang traces how the ambitions, fears, lives, and deaths of Chinese immigrants and their descendants are woven into the very fabric of American society and geography. She sheds light on the persecution of Chinese-Americans and illustrates the precarious position they have always been forced to live in here - caught between the black-white divide of America, Chinese-Americans have been both 'honorary whites' and despised 'coolies' that have been eagerly used for their intellectual capabilities and work ethic but simultaneously mistrusted as 'foreigners' and degraded as dogsbodies. Ambitious breadth paired with intimate detailing makes Chang's history a beautiful achievement and tribute to her community, and is required reading for those interested in actual American history. Highly recommended.

  27. 4 out of 5

    David Marxer

    I'm ashamed to say I only used this important book for quick reference and only now I've taken the time to read it cover to cover. What a treasure I've missed! In alternating chapters, Ms. Chang writes about the history of China and the history of Chinese living in America at the same time. This is important for most Americans (even today) view Chinese Americans (no matter how long they or their families have lived here) through the len of what is going on in China. From the California gold rush I'm ashamed to say I only used this important book for quick reference and only now I've taken the time to read it cover to cover. What a treasure I've missed! In alternating chapters, Ms. Chang writes about the history of China and the history of Chinese living in America at the same time. This is important for most Americans (even today) view Chinese Americans (no matter how long they or their families have lived here) through the len of what is going on in China. From the California gold rush and transcontinental railway to silicon valley, from the Chinese Exclusion Act to Angel Island and the 'Confession' program to the recent and ongoing problems of 'High Tech and Low Tech' it is a great book for general and American history readers. It also has four sections of rarely seen photo. I only regret Ms. Chang is no longer with us so I can offer my thanks.

  28. 5 out of 5

    Wayland Smith

    This is partially history, partially anthropology or maybe sociology. It's a very well-written book detailing the various waves of Chinese immigration into America, and the hurdles they faced here. There's a lot about the Chinese in the gold rush and railroad days, of course. If you studied American history, particularly the Old West, you'd probably expect that. Iris Chang did some good research here. There's a bit of a skip around in time at a few points in the book, but they make sense. Chang al This is partially history, partially anthropology or maybe sociology. It's a very well-written book detailing the various waves of Chinese immigration into America, and the hurdles they faced here. There's a lot about the Chinese in the gold rush and railroad days, of course. If you studied American history, particularly the Old West, you'd probably expect that. Iris Chang did some good research here. There's a bit of a skip around in time at a few points in the book, but they make sense. Chang also relates some of the difficulties of Chinese emigrants in more modern times. She uses some stories from her own family experience to show these are not things of the past. It's a nicely researched, well written book. If you let yourself have an open mind, it may make you think about the history of immigration in America, and things we should work towards changing.

  29. 5 out of 5

    Aaron

    I liked this book because it's one of the few that covers the entire history of Chinese immigrants in America and Chinese Americans. The ending chapters helped me see my parents as part of a larger generation of Chinese immigrants who came to the U.S. after the Tienanmen Square protests to not be persecuted and to have a better shot at life. I also learned about the waves of Chinese immigrants who came to America at different times before my parents and the hard times they went through after arr I liked this book because it's one of the few that covers the entire history of Chinese immigrants in America and Chinese Americans. The ending chapters helped me see my parents as part of a larger generation of Chinese immigrants who came to the U.S. after the Tienanmen Square protests to not be persecuted and to have a better shot at life. I also learned about the waves of Chinese immigrants who came to America at different times before my parents and the hard times they went through after arriving because racism. I think the coolest part is just learning the names of my people - the really extended family, the earliest Chinese people in America - and seeing their photos. Before this book, I had never seen a photo of a Chinese person in America in the 1800s before, and now I have. I think that's pretty cool, and Iris Chang is a major homie for documenting on our peoples' stories.

  30. 4 out of 5

    Lucy

    This was a interesting book to read because I am a Chinese American and my parents were immigrants.It talks about a ranges of things. It goes back all the way back to the Qing Dynasty when the Chinese started coming to America. It talks about the reasons for immigration. I know that my parents came here to have a better life because in America there are more chances. For example, America has a stable government with free education and welfare aid for when people are going through difficult times This was a interesting book to read because I am a Chinese American and my parents were immigrants.It talks about a ranges of things. It goes back all the way back to the Qing Dynasty when the Chinese started coming to America. It talks about the reasons for immigration. I know that my parents came here to have a better life because in America there are more chances. For example, America has a stable government with free education and welfare aid for when people are going through difficult times. It was interesting to read this book because I learned about Chinese activism in civil rights. History books never talk about the Chinese but mostly African Americans. It's a good historical book to read because it shows you a different side of history.

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