Inseparable: The Original Siamese Twins and Their Rendezvous with American History

Inseparable: The Original Siamese Twins and Their Rendezvous with American History

by Yunte Huang


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“An astonishing story, by turns ghastly, hilarious, unnerving, and moving.”—Stephen Greenblatt, author of The Rise and Fall of Adam and Eve

In this “excellent” portrait of America’s famed nineteenth-century Siamese twins, celebrated biographer Yunte Huang discovers in the conjoined lives of Chang and Eng Bunker (1811–1874) a trenchant “comment on the times in which we live” (Wall Street Journal). “Uncovering ironies, paradoxes and examples of how Chang and Eng subverted what Leslie Fiedler called ‘the tyranny of the normal’ ” (BBC), Huang depicts the twins’ implausible route to assimilation after their “discovery” in Siam by a British merchant in 1824 and arrival in Boston as sideshow curiosities in 1829. Their climb from subhuman, freak-show celebrities to rich, southern gentry who profited from entertaining the Jacksonian mobs; their marriage to two white sisters, resulting in twenty-one children; and their owning of slaves, is here not just another sensational biography but an “extraordinary” (New York Times), Hawthorne-like excavation of America’s historical penchant for tyrannizing the other—a tradition that, as Huang reveals, becomes inseparable from American history itself.

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9781631495458
Publisher: Liveright Publishing Corporation
Publication date: 04/09/2019
Edition description: Reprint
Pages: 416
Sales rank: 141,150
Product dimensions: 5.40(w) x 8.20(h) x 1.10(d)

About the Author

Yunte Huang is a Guggenheim Fellow and a professor of English at the University of California, Santa Barbara. He is the author of Transpacific Imaginations and Charlie Chan, which won the 2011 Edgar Award and was a finalist for the 2010 National Book Critics Circle Award in Biography. Having come of age in China as a student in the time of Tiananmen, Huang now lives in Santa Barbara, California.

Table of Contents

List of Illustrations ix

Preface xi

Prologue: A Game on the High Seas xv

Part 1 In Siam

1 Siam 3

2 The Chinese Twins 6

3 Cholera 15

4 The King and Us 20

5 Departure 26

Part 2 First Years

6 A Curiosity in Boston 39

7 The Monster, or Not 51

8 Gotham City 57

7 The City of Brotherly Love 66

9 Knocking at the Gate 70

10 Racial Freaks 80

11 Sentimental Education 89

Part 3 America On The Road

13 The Great Eclipse 97

14 A Satirical Tale 102

15 The Lynnfield Battle 108

16 An Intimate Rebellion 117

17 Old Dominion 125

18 Emancipation 131

19 A Parable 138

20 America on the Road 146

21 The Deep South 163

22 Head Bumps 170

Part 4 Look Homeward, Angel

23 Wilkesboro 187

24 Traphill 197

25 A Universal Truth 206

26 Foursome 225

27 Mount Airy, or Monticello 235

28 The Age of Humbugs 252

29 Minstrel Freaks 268

Part 5 The Civil War And Beyond

30 Seeing the Elephant 283

31 Reconstruction 297

32 The Last Radiance of the Setting Sun 306

33 Afterlife 317

Epilogue: Mayberry, USA 327

Acknowledgments 349

Notes 351

Selected Bibliography 373

Index 381

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