Tuesday, October 25, 2011

"The Adventures of Eddie Fung"

Memoirs of Chinese-American men are hard to come by. I just finished the fascinating memoir of Eddie Fung "Chinatown kid, Texas Cowboy,Prisoner of War ,"
Eddie is now in his 80's was born and raised in San Francisco's Chinatown,ran away to become a Texas Cowboy, then enlisted in the Army during WWII and was captured by the Japanese in Java. He became the only Chinese American prisoner of war amongst the many captured soldiers who worked on the Burma to Siam railroad made famous by the movie Bridge over the River Kwai. Eddie told his story to Judy Yung who edited his oral history into this great book . Interestingly , despite their 23 year age difference Eddie and Judy fell in love during this project . Eddie proposed and Judy accepted and they are now a married couple!
His story is always engaging , at times funny , and shines with Eddie's special humility, courage, and care for others . He thought his life was nothing special, but in reading about it we realize it was quite special indeed. Part of the book deals with Eddie's desire initially to run from his Chinese identity and then his growing understanding and delight in being a Chinese -American .

Here is a picture of Eddie during his military training during WWII.

Here is a recent picture of Eddie with his biographer and wife Judy Yung .

Here is a link to a You tube video of Eddie and Judy discussing and reading from the book during a book club meeting .

Sunday, August 14, 2011

Gabriel "Jack" Chin

Gabriel "Jack" Chin is the son of pioneering Chinese American author and playwright Frank Chin. Jack Chin is a Professor of Law and prominent legal scholar . He recently joined the faculty of the University of California , Davis School of Law , leaving the University of Arizona where he has taught for the last 8 years .

Here is is an excerpt from an article in today's Sacramento Bee.

"Gabriel "Jack" Chin – a national voice in the debate over undocumented immigrants – has been hired to teach criminal law, criminal procedure and immigration law at UC Davis School of Law.

Chin left the University of Arizona's James E. Rogers College of Law, where he vigorously challenged Arizona's Senate Bill 1070, considered the toughest immigration law in the country.

SB 1070 would make it illegal to be undocumented in Arizona and would require law enforcement to check the status of anyone suspected of being undocumented.

During his eight years in Arizona, "it seems there's been a steady flow of anti- immigrant sentiment that's inextricably tied to their race," said Chin, who said he has debated or discussed SB 1070 in public forums 70 times.

"The Arizona Legislature's passed laws that I see as harsh, cruel and inhumane, and it seems unlikely it's going to stop in the next decade," said Chin, adding that he and his wife didn't want to raise their two daughters – Becca, 10 and Sarah, 13 – in Arizona's current political climate."

Read more here.

Professor Chin maintains a web site which has full text of many of his writings .

Wednesday, August 3, 2011

Lorraine Hee-Chorley /The Temple of Kwan Tai

Last weekend my wife and I visited Mendocino. Mendocino is a quaint seaside village on the North coast of California which was much busier in the 19th century during the height of lumber operations there.
The following picture of Mendocino and other beautiful pictures of the town and bluffs can be found on this great blog -"My Back 40 feet"

I didn't realize that Chinese had settled in the area until Liz and I discovered this Chinese temple on one of the streets of the village.
There was plaque on the sidewalk : Temple Kwan Tai , California State Historic Landmark , 1854
The temple was not open when we discovered it so we came back the next day to visit and learn more about it's history.
Here is an inside view of the taoist temple.
Liz and I were very happy to meet Lorraine Hee-Chorley , who is a 4th generation descendant of one of the founders of the temple. Her family has been instrumental in preserving the temple and getting it designated as a California State Historic Landmark. Lorraine's father was of Chinese descent and her mother of German/Irish ancestry. According to Lorraine , Chinese settled in the Mendocino area in the 19th century and worked as laborers in the lumbar mills and railroads and as cooks and house servants and laundrymen. They also worked in farming, fished the coast and were involved in the shrimp industry. During it's hey day Mendocino had a large Chinese community and a Chinatown. Chinatown used to occupy the open space in front of the main street in the picture above . This is now part of the Mendocino Headlands State Park.
Here is Lorraine showing us the temple which was a sacred gathering place for the Chinese community .

Lorraine has written a great book that has wonderful pictures of the Chinese in Mendocino county and of historic Mendocino. We had a great time spending time with Lorraine and learning about the temple ,her family's history in the area and about the history of the Chinese community there . It was truly a highlight of our visit to Mendocino ! Thanks Lorraine !

Kip Fulbeck: Part Asian , 100% Hapa

"Hapa is a Hawaiian language term used to describe a person of mixed Asian or Pacific Islander racial or ethnic heritage"

Kip Fulbeck , a Hapa of 1/2 Chinese and 1/2 English/Irish descent , has put together a traveling exhibition of photos of Hapa people young and old and a wonderful book . He has done much to increase awareness of our growing mixed race society.
There are many Hapas in the Jue Family now and in many other Chinese American Immigrant families . Our president, Barack Obama, is ,of course , also of mixed race ancestry. In the future, perhaps, there will be less need to define our families in terms of our country or ethnic orgin . We will celebrate in our families the wonderful diversity of our roots. Our children and our children's children and the generations to come will understand that they are each special with roots from many different countries and cultures. That is very good.

Here are some pictures of Hapa from Kip Fulbeck's book .

Here is an interview of Kip

Kip's new book is "Mixed:Potraits of Multiracial Kids"

Tuesday, August 2, 2011

"The Lucky Ones "- Mae Ngai

A fascinating new book explores the family story of Jeu Dip. Jeu Dip (same surname as the Jue Family) immigrates to America at the age of 12 . He establishes himself in San Francisco as a "drayman" (horse cart driver ) and later delivering milk. He changes his name to Joseph Tape to sound more American and because in English it sounds like Jeu Dip . He meets and marries Mary ,another Chinese immigrant ,who at age 11 was rescued and raised by the local Ladie's protection society from a life as an indentured servant and prostitute. The story of the family and their success as acculturated middle class Chinese Americans during an era of exclusion and discrimination is fascinating . The family's business primarily revolved around providing settlement and immigration services for immigrating Chinese. Initially family members were involved in transporting property , later in paying bonds for Chinese sailors , and some became interpreters and worked for the immigration service in helping to interrogate and discover illegal aliens. The way that family members worked the middle ground between the Chinese and the Caucasian communities in an era of distrust and discrimination is quite interesting . In many ways the family members were viewed with distrust from both sides. There were ultimately allegations of bribes and extortion of Chinese immigrants . The book is written by Columbia History professor Mae Ngai and relies on newspaper accounts and family documents and pictures to paint a fascinating history of the family from the 19th century to WWII.

Here is a photo of the John Tape (Jeu Dip ) Family

Here is John Tape ( Jeu Dip) with his hunting dogs.

Tape family at the World's Fair

Tape family at the beach at Pacific Grove

"Angel Island -Immigrant Gateway to America"

The definitive book on the history of Angel Island is Erika Lee and Judy Yung's book. I recently finished the book in preparation for the recent Immigrant History Wall dedication which I attended along with other Jue family members. This book is an excellent and comprehensive exploration of the history of the Angel Island immigration station , the experiences of the detainees there as well as the experiences of the staff. It covers not only Chinese immigrants , but the little known stories of other Asian immigrants, European immigrants, and Mexican immigrants all of whom immigrated through Angel Island from 1910 to 1940 . It is essential reading for those interested in the history of Angel Island .

Here is a picture of the immigration station as it appeared to immigrants stepping off the boat bringing them to the island . The large building in the foreground burned down many years ago but the detention barracks on the hill still stands and is the home to the museum exhibits of the Angel Island Immigration foundation .

Here is a picture of immigrants arriving at Angel Island in 1910 . My grandfather San Tong Jue arrived in 1918 at the age of 13th with his mother Leong Shee and his 15 year old brother San You . The family had been sent for by his father Jue Joe who immigrated to America in 1874 at the age of 14 , long before the Angel Island Immigration station was opened.

Wednesday, July 13, 2011

"At America's Gates"-Erica Lee

I just finished a great book by Erica Lee called " At America's Gates " published in 2003. It is the story of the Chinese during the Exclusion era and is very topical reading in light of the current immigration debates concerning Mexican immigration . In fact, Erica Lee feels that the current way we look at immigration and immigration issues was born in the way our country handled Chinese immigration .
The racist nature of the Exclusion laws and immigration practices are detailed as well as the lengths that Chinese went to circumvent the laws and restrictions in order to come to America.

My great grandfather , Jue Joe, immigrated to the US in 1874 and was subject to the Exclusion laws passed in 1882 and 1892 and thereafter and the story of how he travelled back and forth to China despite the Exclusion laws make for interesting reading in our family blog. My grandfather , his mother and his brother , immigrated to the US in 1918 and were detained and questioned on Angel Island . The Angel Island era also has a prominent part in this book . I recommend it highly .

Here is an interesting picture of coaching materials smuggled to detainees at Angel island in hollowed out bananas .

A chapter in the book details the little known history of Chinese immigrants smuggled across the Canadian and Mexican borders. One way of getting Chinese across was to disguise them as Mexicans . Here is a picture from the National Archives.

Wednesday, April 6, 2011

"Fortunate Sons" Chinese Students in American Colleges in the 19th Century

In a previous family history blog post , I explored the history of Jue Shee , my great great uncle , who attended college at Pomona College and then UC Berkeley in the late 19th Century. I also explored a bit the history of the Chinese Educational Mission a program in which the Chinese government sent young boys to New England as teenagers to host families and then on to elite colleges in the US. The program was disbanded before many of the boys could finish college and the boys were sent back to China. My great great uncle was one of a small group of Chinese students who were able to get around exclusionary immigration laws and study at American colleges after this initial group of Chinese college students were sent home. The story of the Chinese Educational Mission and the ultimate fate of these American educated Chinese is the subject of a new book ." Fortunate Sons: The 120 Chinese Boys Who Came to America, Went to School, and Revolutionized an Ancient Civilization" by By Liel Leibovitz and Matthew Miller. I enjoyed the book and recommend it.

Here is the recent NY Times book review.

Wednesday, March 23, 2011

John Jung

Recently I finished two books by John Jung . The first was his book "Southern Fried Rice : Life in a Chinese Laundry in the Deep South" which is memoir of growing up in a Chinese Laundry in the deep south . The second was "Sweet and Sour -Life in Chinese Family Restaurants." Both of these books were wonderful providing a detailed glimpse at life in the Chinese family laundry and restaurant businesses which have been so important in the history of the Chinese in America . Johns' own personal history is very fascinating . Let me have him tell you what got him interested in writing his series of books ...

"In 2002, after a long career in academia as a professor of psychology I reduced my load to a half-time basis. With more time to reflect on many issues, I returned to a question that I had avoided many times during my life, namely, how do I, as a second-generation Chinese American fit in a predominantly black and white society. I grew up in Macon, Georgia, where our family operated a laundry during the years before the civil rights era. We were the only Chinese in town, so it was difficult for me to understand who I was, ethnically speaking. Even after we moved to San Francisco when I was an adolescent, it was still difficult for me to know what it meant to be a Chinese American because I was so different from the San Francisco Chinese who had lived so closely among other Chinese all of their lives. Then just as I was 'becoming' Chinese American, I moved to other places where few Chinese lived, so I had to just forget about or neglect my Chinese-ness and concentrate on my career development. I focused on being a color-neutral 'person.'

My journey into an attempt to understand how my ethnic identity was formed led me to write a memoir that I eventually published in 2005 as "Southern Fried Rice: Life in A Chinese Laundry in the Deep South." Most people I know in California are puzzled when they learn of my southern roots, wondering why my parents settled in Georgia where there were so few Chinese. I soon realized that here was an important story to preserve and share but no one was recording this bit of the Chinese American experience. "

Here are a couple of you tube videos where John discusses the two books I have just read ..