The Chinese in America: A Narrative History

The Chinese in America: A Narrative History

by Iris Chang
3.3 3

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The Chinese in America: A Narrative History 3.3 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 3 reviews.
Guest More than 1 year ago
Unlike her previous books Rape of Nanjing, and Silk Worm, this book gives a reasonable account of the Chinese-American¿s history from nineteenth century and on. In the book, she tries hard to convey the history into twenty chapters though 403 pages of fine writings and 92 pages of references. While not a historian by training she was able to digest the endless material through her journalist¿s writing skills. Now and then she would interject her own family experience in the book. While there is nothing wrong with it I thought it was eccentric for a journalist to include personal experience in a supposedly oral history book. Between the paragraphs it gives a glimpse of her feelings and attitudes toward the Chinese Americans. She dwelled a number of pages on Hapa (Hawaii term for mixed marriages between Anglo and non-Anglo, see page 402) talking about celebrities like Tiger Woods (pp 401) etc. Deep in her heart she was concerned with her own Hapa child and acceptance into mainstream America. In a sense, she suggested that Chinese Americans should be considered Asian American in the future (pp399). As a native born American of Asian descendent perhaps she dwelled more on the pressure of being super achievers in America. That may be her impression of being good kids. She probably has never encountered or associated with talk-back at parents and rebellious second-generation Asian-Americans. It was her personality wanting to excel. She took her work quite seriously and developed nervous breakdown. In her book Rape of Nanjing, as a female young journalist she published many gruesome disgusting events. Many just refused to accept they ever occurred. Those endured through did not want to remember or discuss even with loved ones. It was too much to endure as she admitted. In this book she tried to intertwine many loose sources by interviewing historians, and celebrities (pp 477-480). She tried hard to mention endless names getting readers dizzy. Chang has done a service by bringing this subject to the general public, but unfortunately her tone is often nearly depressing. Her arguments that Chinese Americans are all technocrats and some like Jerry Yang may be successful businessmen did not address the new comers. For example, in chapter 19 High Tech vs. Low Tech (pp 349) she mentioned the growing divide between Haves and Have-nots. What she could have done better is explanation of globalization, WTO and outsourcing processes etc. Software engineers white or Asians alike now (2005) often wondered if their work will be sourced overseas and they do so with good reason. Her point was there were still racism and discrimination of minorities in America. In this book, she dwelled on her own class which was elite! Granted, both Bill and Hillary Clinton employed highly educated Chinese Americans as their speech writers. If she had visited many recent immigrants in the predominant Chinese communities around her she would have second thought and focused more on the commoners needs. It was the commoners who built the western railway, grew food and cleared the Sacramento swamps for America. If I have anything to comment, with all the resources available to her, she was not able to find any original photos. For example, Chang and Eng Bunker (aka Siamese twins) shown on pp 80 she could mention they were so patriotic to America that both showed up at a confederated army recruiting station in unison. Should she chose writing a fiction as opposed to Bataan Death March (i.e. another Nanjing massacre) in her 4th book she would not have suffered and developed such serious bipolar psychiatric disorder by going thorough episodes of mania and depression. It was clear in her last notes she left behind three suicide notes each dated Monday, November 8, 2004. 'Statement of Iris Chang' first one says: I promise to get up and get out of the house every morning. I will stop by to visit my parents then go for a long wa
Guest More than 1 year ago
Iris Chang, who killed herself at such a young and vibrant age, could have been so much more. Shows depression doesn't discriminate. I thought this book was thought-provoking and timely as mainland China is rising in power. As Mrs. Chang addressed in the book, many Chinese-Americans are torn between the motherland (China), the foster land (Taiwan), and the land from which they got much opportunity, albeit imperfect. She talked of the enduring legacy of the early Chinese who helped build the trans-continental railroad and made San Fransisco what it is today compared to Southern California: urbane, sophisticated, and learned, whereas much of Southern California is indistinguishable from its third-world neighbor to the south. I applaud her on her testimony of the Chinese clawing their way to power (what is more American than that) in the land of hope and opportunity. On the other hand, she proselytizes about them being the quintessential outsiders, fair game for racist abuse. I am not disputing what happened in the Chinese Exclusion Act, or the witch hunts of the 50's or the imprisionment during World War II. She says that Elaine Chao was the subject of harassment at the highest levels of government, compared to others. What about Condoleeza Rice? They were accused of corruption, not a new charge during this administration. She does an excellent job weaving the stories of young, brilliant entrepreneurs of Chinese suburbs, more American than their Cantonese culture, developed into one of the most influential forces in American corporate life. As a few observers have noted, however, Ms. Chang doesn't address the growing population of Chinese immigrants into our nation's metropolitan cities in depth. She touches on it, but it still shows the enduring depth of poverty in her native land and ours. Her chapter on the HAPAS was enlightening, as it details the demographic changes this country is going under, where traditional racial definitions are getting harder and harder to use... a la California habits.
Guest More than 1 year ago
Reading Iris Chang's book, one might well assume that most Chinese Americans spend them time cowering in fear of persecution or hanging their heads in shame. The reality, of course, is that neither is the case but this book, from cover to cover, is an exercise in utter lack of perpective and the desire to find racism and discrimination everywhere, even when it doesn't exist. No doubt the early Chinese in America experienced horrendous prejudice, both personal and institutional - but how about putting that into perspective for African Americans whose suffering was much worse? Not a word from Chang - except to excoriate an American society 'riddled with racism'. Chinese Americans before World War II couldn't obtain admission to top universities - how about American Jews and the numerus clausus? Not a word. What about the experience of any of the other millions of immigrants who arrived in America during the early waves of Chinese immigration? Barely a word - except to excoriate the Irish arrivals for fomenting a 'white against yellow' mentality and riots. Does the widespread anti-Irish bigotry (NINA - No Irish Need Apply) appear anywhere in the book? Not a word. Worse still, when Chinese Americans really begin to 'arrive', to 'make it' (post 1965 chnages in the immigration laws), their achievements aren't really achievements but rather are merely setups for loss - increasing Asian enrollment at elite universities only engenders reverse discrimination, Matt Fong may be a candidate for governor of California but someone calls into question his loyalty to the US, etc. etc. Chang utterly fails to differentiate between real institutionalized racism, encased in government policy (e.g., the Chinese Exclusion Act) and a slight made by a moron to a Chinese American who has achieved the full American Dream. Was America's history toward Chinese immigrants racist and discriminatory? Yes? Was it the same towards other immigrant groups, yes but perhaps (perhaps!) worse for Chinese. Was it worse for African Americans? By far. Was that rectified and then some by the amendments to the Immigration Act in 1965? Yes. Have Chinese Americans transformed, completely, the way almost all Americans (certainly all thinking Americans) view Chinese Americans? Yes. Are Chinese Americans an integral and appreciated part of the fabric of American society? Yes - just ask Elaine Chao, Secy. of Labor. So why does Chang title her last chapter 'An Uncertain Future'? Because she can't see the forest for the trees. I expected much better from this author and this book.