Charlie Chan: The Untold Story of the Honorable Detective and His Rendezvous with American History

Charlie Chan: The Untold Story of the Honorable Detective and His Rendezvous with American History

3.9 13
by Yunte Huang
     
 

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Fiction and reality collide head-on in this groundbreaking biography of a real Honolulu detective turned American movie icon.See more details below

Overview

Fiction and reality collide head-on in this groundbreaking biography of a real Honolulu detective turned American movie icon.

Editorial Reviews

Michael Dirda
…almost as wide-ranging as it is enthralling…Yunte Huang's Charlie Chan is a terrifically enjoyable and informative book, one that should appeal to both students of racial history and to fans of one of cinema's greatest detectives.
—The Washington Post
Richard Schickel
…a capacious, somewhat baggy, but always entertaining book about Chan and all the factors that account for his longevity. Before Huang is done, we have been treated to a vast gaggle of material about Chan's creator, Earl Derr Biggers; Honolulu (where Chan was nominally a police detective); Chinese culture and immigration to the West; Hollywood moviemaking, not excluding Fu Manchu and Anna May Wong—everything that might possibly shed light on the Honorable Detective's life and times and popularity…Charlie Chan remains, in himself, a sly and delightful figure, worthy of nostalgia—and of Huang's very original, good-humored and passionately researched book.
—The New York Times
Booklist
“Starred Review. This is a beautifully written analysis of racism and an appreciation of Charlie Chan and Chang Apana, made credible by Huang's background.”
The Daily Beast
“[A] fascinating cultural survey full of engaging tangents.... one of Huang's greatest accomplishments is his vivid narration of the history of Chinese immigration to the United States.... In the style of say, Louis Menand, Huang is that rare literary scholar with the light touch of a popular historian.... Huang's book is perfectly timed for the era of YouTube and Netflix and so hopefully will reintroduce what was created, with all its wisdom and imperfection.”
The Kansas City Star
“The most interesting story may be Huang’s own. He comes to see Chan as 'both the racist heritage and the creative genius' of his adopted nation’s culture.”
San Francisco Chronicle
“Writing easily without turgid academic cant, Huang, a former restaurateur, offers a tasty narrative menu.”
Time
A virtuoso of curiosity.... Huang digs up fascinating research on everything from the demographics of capital punishment in Honolulu to the origins of The Manchurian Candidate.... a work of exhaustively researched popular history that reads like a dime-store romance.— Pico Iyer
Newsweek
Excellent and very sympathetic...You don't need to be a fan of Charlie's to enjoy Huang's narrative, maybe because he's told so many stories here, all of them intriguing...All this—the lives of Biggers and Apana, Charlie’s career in novels, movies, TV shows, cartoons, and comic books—is told in the context of an America in the throes of nativism. Asian-Americans then were held in the same suspicion and contempt directed today at Arabs and Latinos, a fact that gives this story a lamentable but inescapable currency.— Sarah Ball
The Oregonian
It's a story so engaging on so many levels that, as with any good detective book, you won't want to put it down.— Elinor Lange
The New York Times Book Review
Charlie Chan remains, in himself, a sly and delightful figure, worthy of nostalgia—and of Huang’s very original, good-humored and passionately researched book.— Richard Schickel
Pico Iyer - Time
“A virtuoso of curiosity.... Huang digs up fascinating research on everything from the demographics of capital punishment in Honolulu to the origins of The Manchurian Candidate.... a work of exhaustively researched popular history that reads like a dime-store romance.”
Sarah Ball - Newsweek
“Excellent and very sympathetic...You don't need to be a fan of Charlie's to enjoy Huang's narrative, maybe because he's told so many stories here, all of them intriguing...All this—the lives of Biggers and Apana, Charlie’s career in novels, movies, TV shows, cartoons, and comic books—is told in the context of an America in the throes of nativism. Asian-Americans then were held in the same suspicion and contempt directed today at Arabs and Latinos, a fact that gives this story a lamentable but inescapable currency.”
Elinor Lange - The Oregonian
“It's a story so engaging on so many levels that, as with any good detective book, you won't want to put it down.”
Richard Schickel - The New York Times Book Review
“Charlie Chan remains, in himself, a sly and delightful figure, worthy of nostalgia—and of Huang’s very original, good-humored and passionately researched book.”
Arthur Golden
“Charlie Chan, much like the classic geisha dolls on bookcase shelves, has survived for generations as little more than a paper-thin stereotype. Now in this impressive and highly-original work, Yunte Huang has brought this fictional character out of the dusty shadows into three-dimensional life, offering us not only a picture of a little-known swath of American history, but the surprising story of this Chinese detective's American creator, and the real-life figure who inspired him.”
Annette Gordon-Reed
“Who would think that the back-story of the fictional character Charlie Chan could be so instructive, and so timely? Huang's deft and witty recounting of how Hollywood transformed a real life detective from Hawaii into one of the most recognizable—and problematic—racial icons in movie history tells us much that we need to know about America's engagement with race and identity in the 20th century. Race was clearly more than black and white, a thing to keep in mind as we move through our increasingly multi-cultural century.”
Stephen Greenblatt
“[G]ripping .... Huang writes with rare personal intensity and capacious intelligence.”
Gary Y. Okihiro
“Witty and erudite, Charlie Chan intrigues and surprises as it unravels the three guises of this American original—a real-life, Hawaiian-born Chinese detective, a literary creation, and a movie character. Racist stereotypes, we come to see in this exemplary work, can convey monstrous fictions as well as complex, multifaceted truths.”
Jessica Hagedorn
“Provocative and totally unique, Charlie Chan expands the yellowface debate with mischievous humor and a compelling sense of irony. In bringing the actual Honolulu detective, Chang Apana and his distorted Hollywood reflections to vivid life, Yunte Huang opens up important historical perspectives that have gone previously unexamined.”
David Thomson - New Republic
“One of the most entertaining, informative, and provocative books I have read in a long time.”
Jill Lepore - The New Yorker
“Huang’s history is bracing and expansive.”
Peter Kwong
“A significant work of American history written in a stimulating and masterful way. Most impressive is Yunte Huang’s ability to create a nuanced cultural and racial history out of the fictional Charlie Chan.”

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Product Details

ISBN-13:
9780393079166
Publisher:
Norton, W. W. & Company, Inc.
Publication date:
08/15/2011
Sold by:
Barnes & Noble
Format:
NOOK Book
Pages:
288
Sales rank:
326,643
File size:
1 MB

What People are saying about this

Jonathan Spence
"An ingenious and absorbing book, that provides a convincing new mode for examining the Chinese experience through both Chinese and Western eyes. It will permanently change the way we tell this troubled yet gripping story."—Jonathan Spence, author of The Search for Modern China and Return to Dragon Mountain

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