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The Chinatown Trunk Mystery: Murder, Miscegenation, and Other Dangerous Encounters in Turn-of-the-Century New York City
     

The Chinatown Trunk Mystery: Murder, Miscegenation, and Other Dangerous Encounters in Turn-of-the-Century New York City

by Mary Ting Yi Lui, Mary Ting Lui
 
In the summer of 1909, the gruesome murder of nineteen-year-old Elsie Sigel sent shock waves through New York City and the nation at large. The young woman's strangled corpse was discovered inside a trunk in the midtown Manhattan apartment of her reputed former Sunday school student and lover, a Chinese man named Leon Ling. Through the lens of this unsolved murder,

Overview

In the summer of 1909, the gruesome murder of nineteen-year-old Elsie Sigel sent shock waves through New York City and the nation at large. The young woman's strangled corpse was discovered inside a trunk in the midtown Manhattan apartment of her reputed former Sunday school student and lover, a Chinese man named Leon Ling. Through the lens of this unsolved murder, Mary Ting Yi Lui offers a fascinating snapshot of social and sexual relations between Chinese and non-Chinese populations in turn-of-the-century New York City. Sigel's murder was more than a notorious crime, Lui contends. It was a clear signal that attempts to maintain geographical and social boundaries between the city's Chinese male, and white female populations had failed.

Through her thorough re-examination of this notorious murder, Lui reveals in unprecedented detail how contemporary politics of race, gender, and sexuality shaped public responses to the presence of Chinese immigrants during the Chinese exclusion era.

About the Author:
Mary Ting Yi Lui is Associate Professor of American Studies and History at Yale University

Editorial Reviews

Ethnic and Racial Studies

This is an outstandingly well researched and elegantly executed book, rich in detail, theoretical insight, and contemporary illustration drawn from the archives, and at times great fun. . . . [I]t sets a new high standard for writing about the Asian American experience.
— Gregor Benton
American Historical Review - Krystyn Moon
Lui has created a solid historical narrative through her combined use of empirical data and Chinese-language sources. . . . [Her] work deserves to be recognized as an important contribution to American history.
Ethnic & Racial Studies - Gregor Benton
This is an outstandingly well researched and elegantly executed book, rich in detail, theoretical insight, and contemporary illustration drawn from the archives, and at times great fun. . . . [I]t sets a new high standard for writing about the Asian American experience.
Journal of American History - Renqiu Yu
[A] magnificent social history. . . . [T]he book's graceful style, along with its vivid, engaging narratives and insightful analyses, is certain to be appreciated and enjoyed beyond the scholarly community.
Journal of Asian American Studies - Shilpa Dave
Mary Ting Yi Lui's book, The Chinatown Trunk Mystery, is the perfect blend of a thrilling mystery bestseller and a detailed cultural history.
The Historian - Karen J. Leong
Lui, in this provocative and compelling study, demonstrates how America's racial and gender formations were mapped onto the dynamic and urban landscape of New York's Chinatown. This book is highly recommended.
Journal of Asian American Studies - Shilpa Davé
Mary Ting Yi Lui's book, The Chinatown Trunk Mystery, is the perfect blend of a thrilling mystery bestseller and a detailed cultural history.
From the Publisher
Winner of the 2005 History Award, The Association for Asian American Studies

"Lui has created a solid historical narrative through her combined use of empirical data and Chinese-language sources. . . . [Her] work deserves to be recognized as an important contribution to American history."—Krystyn Moon,American Historical Review

"This is an outstandingly well researched and elegantly executed book, rich in detail, theoretical insight, and contemporary illustration drawn from the archives, and at times great fun. . . . [I]t sets a new high standard for writing about the Asian American experience."—Gregor Benton, Ethnic and Racial Studies

"[A] magnificent social history. . . . [T]he book's graceful style, along with its vivid, engaging narratives and insightful analyses, is certain to be appreciated and enjoyed beyond the scholarly community."—Renqiu Yu, Journal of American History

"Mary Ting Yi Lui's book, The Chinatown Trunk Mystery, is the perfect blend of a thrilling mystery bestseller and a detailed cultural history."—Shilpa Davé, Journal of Asian American Studies

"Lui, in this provocative and compelling study, demonstrates how America's racial and gender formations were mapped onto the dynamic and urban landscape of New York's Chinatown. This book is highly recommended."—Karen J. Leong, The Historian

American Historical Review
Lui has created a solid historical narrative through her combined use of empirical data and Chinese-language sources. . . . [Her] work deserves to be recognized as an important contribution to American history.
— Krystyn Moon
Ethnic & Racial Studies
This is an outstandingly well researched and elegantly executed book, rich in detail, theoretical insight, and contemporary illustration drawn from the archives, and at times great fun. . . . [I]t sets a new high standard for writing about the Asian American experience.
— Gregor Benton
Journal of American History
[A] magnificent social history. . . . [T]he book's graceful style, along with its vivid, engaging narratives and insightful analyses, is certain to be appreciated and enjoyed beyond the scholarly community.
— Renqiu Yu
Journal of Asian American Studies
Mary Ting Yi Lui's book, The Chinatown Trunk Mystery, is the perfect blend of a thrilling mystery bestseller and a detailed cultural history.
— Shilpa Davé
The Historian
Lui, in this provocative and compelling study, demonstrates how America's racial and gender formations were mapped onto the dynamic and urban landscape of New York's Chinatown. This book is highly recommended.
— Karen J. Leong

Product Details

ISBN-13:
9780691091969
Publisher:
Princeton University Press
Publication date:
11/01/2004
Pages:
320
Product dimensions:
6.46(w) x 9.32(h) x 0.76(d)

What People are Saying About This

Gilfoyle
Mary Ting Yi Lui creatively employs a forgotten but important crime as a narrative vehicle to show that New York's Chinatown was not a neighborhood of racial exclusion and ethnic isolation. Rather, the author convincingly argues that Chinatown's borders were not fixed or impenetrable as suggested by past journalist and scholarly studies. She offers a nuanced and accurate interpretation of the Chinese-American experience, challenging one of the most enduring racial stereotypes in American historical literature.
Timothy J. Gilfoyle, Loyola University
Henry Yu
This is a fantastic book, overflowing with groundbreaking empirical research and rich with historical detail. The author has gathered an enormous range of newspaper and archival material, as well as prints and illustrations, and her detective work is amazing in its depth. She is particularly strong in detailing the historical fascination and obsessions with interracial sexual relationships, using the murder case of Elsie Sigel to narrate white American conceptions of Chinatown and Chinese men as a threat to white women.
Henry Yu, University of California, Los Angeles

Meet the Author

Mary Ting Yi Lui is Assistant Professor of American Studies and History at Yale University. She is a former curator of the Museum of Chinese in the Americas in New York City.

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