Poetry and History of Chinese Immigrants on Angel Island, 1910-1940
- PUBLISHED: October 2014
- SUBJECT LISTING: Asian American Studies, Literary Studies
- BIBLIOGRAPHIC INFORMATION: 384 Pages, 8 x 10 in, 91 b&w illus.
- ISBN: 9780295994079
- Publisher: University of Washington Press
In the early twentieth century, most Chinese immigrants coming to the United States were detained at the Angel Island Immigration Station in San Francisco Bay. There, they were subject to physical exams, interrogations, and often long detentions aimed at upholding the exclusion laws that kept Chinese out of the country. Many detainees recorded their anger and frustrations, hopes and despair in poetry written and carved on the barrack walls.
Island tells these immigrants’ stories while underscoring their relevance to contemporary immigration issues. First published in 1980, this book is now offered in an updated, expanded edition including a new historical introduction, 150 annotated poems in Chinese and English translation, extensive profiles of immigrants gleaned through oral histories, and dozens of new photographs from public archives and family albums.
An important historical document as well as a significant work of literature, Island is a testament to the hardships Chinese immigrants endured on Angel Island, their perseverance, and their determination to make a new life in America.
Watch the book trailer: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Vn7kJscWIaM
Authors & Contributors
The late Him Mark Lai was internationally renowned as the dean of Chinese American history and the author of The Chinese of America, 1785-1980 and Becoming Chinese American: A History of Communities and Institutions. Genny Lim is a native San Francisco poet, playwright, performer, and educator. She is the author of three poetry collections and the award-winning play Paper Angels, about Chinese immigrants detained on Angel Island. Judy Yung is professor emerita of American studies at the University of California, Santa Cruz, and the author of Unbound Feet: A Social History of Chinese Women in San Francisco and Angel Island: Immigrant Gateway to America.
During the time they spent on the island, as little as a few days, as long as three years, [immigrants] carved and ink-brushed their concerns onto the walls of their barracks. One hundred thirty-five calligraphic poems survived, first discovered by a Federal park ranger after Angel Island was abandoned in 1940. Together with the interviews, the poems — angry, heroic, wrenchingly forlorn, despairing, provocative, resistant — convey, as no secondhand or thirdhand account could ever do, what it was like to be Chinese and to be on Angel Island.- New York Times
More than two decades ago, the first edition of Island brought the plight of Chinese immigrants in America to the academic forefront through the poetry they left behind at Angel Island. The updated and recently published second edition expands that focus with more poems, interviews, archival photos and an enhanced discussion of historical context….The resulting tome is sure to be a touchstone for Chinese and Asian American Studies for generations to come…. As our nation continues to be a mecca for impoverished people from other countries, Angel Island reminds us to check our attitudes and policies toward immigration, because for all the benefits of being a multicultural and democratic nation there are myriad untold costs.- Misa Shikuma, International Examiner
It reclaims the migration history of ordinary Chinese Americans. . . . Poignant testimony to what it meant to be Chinese in America at the beginning of the twentieth century.- Elena Barabantseva, Harvard Journal of Asiatic Studies