The crippling custom of footbinding is the thematic touchstone for Judy Yung's engrossing study of Chinese American women during the first half of the twentieth century. Using this symbol of subjugation to examine social change in the lives of these women, she shows the stages of "unbinding" that occurred in the decades between the turn of the century and the end of World War II.
The setting for this captivating history is San Francisco, which had the largest Chinese population in the United States. Yung, a second-generation Chinese American born and raised in San Francisco, uses an impressive range of sources to tell her story. Oral history interviews, previously unknown autobiographies, both English- and Chinese-language newspapers, government census records, and exceptional photographs from public archives and private collections combine to make this a richly human document as well as an illuminating treatise on race, gender, and class dynamics.
While presenting larger social trends Yung highlights the many individual experiences of Chinese American women, and her skill as an oral history interviewer gives this work an immediacy that is poignant and effective. Her analysis of intraethnic class rifts—a major gap in ethnic history—sheds important light on the difficulties that Chinese American women faced in their own communities. Yung provides a more accurate view of their lives than has existed before, revealing the many ways that these women—rather than being passive victims of oppression—were active agents in the making of their own history.
Yung (Chinese Women of America: A Pictorial History, Univ. of Washington Pr., 1986) has written a thorough and engrossing social history of Chinese women in San Francisco, from the turn of the century through the end of World War II. Using oral history interviews, unpublished autobiographies, government census reports, and English- and Chinese-language newspapers, Yung illuminates the larger canvas of social change with the stories of specific women from the first and second generations and their quests to improve their lives. The book is particularly valuable for its analysis of class differences within the Chinese community (merchant, peasant, bound servant, etc.), which created even more obstacles for Chinese women to overcome. This work offers engrossing reading; highly recommended for academic and public libraries.Katharine L. Kan, Aiea P.L., Hawaii
Lady Hyegyong married Crown Prince Sado when they were both nine years old. The prince descended into violence and insanity in adulthood, and was killed by his father. Lady Hyegyong chose to live, and her son was later crowned king. She wrote the collected four memoirs in an attempt to weather the storms of political intrigue surrounding her. Contains introductory material, a glossary, and genealogical tables. Annotation c. Book News, Inc., Portland, OR (booknews.com)
Judy Yung is Assistant Professor of American Studies at the University of California, Santa Cruz. She is the author of Chinese Women of America: A Pictorial History (1986) and the coauthor of Island: Poetry and History of Chinese Immigrants on Angel Island (1980, 1991), which won the Before Columbus Foundation Book Award.