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Chinese American History in Literature Essay (Critical Writing)

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Updated: May 6th, 2020

Introduction

A book critique is a literary criticism in which a scholar analyzes a piece of literature based on its writing style, content, and merit (Turner 89). The reviews are made for various reasons. For example, they may be made to be published in printed periodicals and magazines. They may also be made as part of schoolwork.

In addition, critiques can be made for newspaper websites. A number of factors are taken into consideration when making a review. The aspects include the specific topic of the resource, its statement of the thesis, forms of materials presented, and theoretical issues raised and used by the author.

In this paper, the author will critique two books on Chinese American history. The two texts are authored by individuals from different ethnic backgrounds. An extensive analysis and evaluation of the literature will be carried out. To this end, the author will focus on the differences and similarities between the two texts with regards to the presentation of Chinese American history.

The first book to be critiqued is “Island: Poetry and History of Chinese Immigrants on Angel Island, 1910-1940”. It is authored by Lai, Lim and Yung. The text was published in 1991. The second is “Entry Denied: Exclusion and the Chinese Community in America, 1882-1943”. The book is written by McClain, Fritz, and Salyer. It was also published in 1991.

A Critique of the Book “Island: Poetry and History of Chinese Immigrants on Angel Island, 1910-1940”

Book Summary

The book titled “Island: Poetry and History of Chinese Immigrants on Angel Island, 1910-1940” is written by Him Lai, Genny Lim, and Judy Yung. It talks of some of the oldest literary expressions of the Chinese in America. All the three authors are of Chinese American descent. The text is a collection of 135 poems written and carved on barrack walls on Angel Island in San Francisco Bay (Lai, Lim and Yung 65).

At the time, the Chinese Immigrants were being held at the center. They were undergoing a thorough government inspection. Lai, Lim, and Yung note that the Chinese nationals were held on the Island for weeks and months (115). At the time, the islet was referred to as the Ellis Island of the West.

Book Critique

In the book, the three authors have done a great work of collecting, organizing, annotating, and translating the poems. To facilitate better understanding of the text, Lai, Lim, and Yung have incorporated photographs of the Chinese immigrants held on Angel Island (43). In addition, oral history and interviews have been included in the book. The dialogues and pictures show the frustrations and humiliating experiences faced by the Chinese citizens on Ellis Island of the West between 1910 and 1940 (Ngai 110).

The three authors strive to maintain the originality of the collected works. For example, the interviews recorded are presented in the initial Chinese language. English translation is used on the side (Lai, Lim and Yung 85). The idea to provide original content makes the text an important and beautiful historical document. It clearly reveals the struggles faced by Chinese immigrants in America. The book’s theme is sad and touching. The reason behind this is because the pictures and dialogues presented are harrowing. However, the authors have managed to make the content exhilarating.

Angel Island in San Francisco is a memorial place for the Chinese Immigrants who were held there for months while undergoing scrutiny (Miller 95). To this end, Lai, Lim, and Yung have done a commendable job in ensuring that the cries and frustrations of the Chinese citizens who survived the horrors are well documented.

As a result, the experiences can be relived and easily accessed by future generations. In addition, the book provides important information that can help scholars and other parties interested in the Chinese American history gain an in-depth understanding of the plight of these individuals in the United States.

In the 19th Century, many Chinese nationals travelled to the United States to escape poverty and start new beginnings (Yung 120). However, many suffered in the hands of the American government officials. The move by Lai, Lim, and Yung to highlight these accounts in a non-altered form conveys vital information that could not be presented well enough through second or third-hand accounts.

Immigrants often suffer from discrimination, abuse, and violence (Zhou 86). In their book “Island: Poetry and History of Chinese Immigrants on Angel Island, 1910-1940”, Lai, Lim, and Yung portray the plight of Chinese nationals in foreign countries. In addition, the three authors help readers to understand the rampant nature of racism in America in the 19th century. The poems, pictures, and interviews used speak for themselves. They also paint a picture of anger, frustration, and complaints in a creative manner.

A Critique of the Book “Entry Denied: Exclusion and the Chinese Community in America, 1882-1943”

Book Summary

Like the text above, the book titled “Entry Denied: Exclusion and the Chinese Community in America, 1882-1943” is also written by three authors. They are Charles J. McClain, Christian G. Fritz, and Lucy E. Salyer. However, unlike Lai, Lim, and Yung, McClain, Fritz, and Salyer are of American descent. In 1882, the Congress passed a Chinese prohibiting decree. The law barred Chinese laborers from entering into the United States for a period of ten years (Yung 106).

The restriction made the Chinese nationals the first race to be excluded from immigrating into America. In 1892 and 1902, the act was reviewed. However, instead of being lifted, it was made permanent in 1904. After years of exclusion from the superpower nation, the ban on Chinese laborers was revoked by the United States Congress in 1943 (Ngai 102). The move was a show of appreciation to China (Ngai 101). The reason behind this is because the country supported America in the World War II.

A Critique of the Book

Like the book by Lai, Lim, and Yung, “Entry Denied: Exclusion and the Chinese Community in America, 1882-1943” illustrates the plight of Chinese immigrants in the U.S in a clear and detailed manner. The challenges emanate from the restrictions imposed by the United States Congress. McClain, Fritz, and Salyer also present a comprehensive account of how Chinese citizens who had gained entry into America rallied together as a community to fight the institutionalized discrimination against them (34). Individuals from this community joined forces to fight against the exclusion laws barring more Chinese nationals from migrating into the U.S (McClain, Fritz and Salyer 115).

The book is an important piece of American Chinese history. In spite of the fact that the authors are of American descent, they have extensively used Chinese language to explore the topic. The book provides the reader with information to better understand the segregation era in Chinese American history. McClain, Fritz, and Salyer provide their audience with real life experiences and measures taken by the Chinese immigrants to establish themselves and settle in a racist and hostile community (92). In addition, the text provides important information on decisions made by the Federal and United States Supreme Courts regarding immigration in the 18th and 19th century.

The book provides the reader with extensive knowledge in the field of Chinese American history. The reason behind this is because the literature is a major contribution to current Asian American studies. Each essay in the book is based on its own thesis. As a result, the authors are able to present separate individual findings on the experiences of Chinese immigrants in an organized manner (McClain, Fritz and Salyer 33). The arrangement of the chapters makes it easy for the reader to find the specific information they are looking for.

Similarities in the Presentation of Information between the Two Books

Both books provide a detailed account of the plight and suffering of Chinese immigrants in the United States during the 19th century. A critical analysis of the texts reveals a significant correlation between the content presented. In light of this, it is evident that the two texts contain a number of lessons that can enrich the imagination and experiences of readers in a major way.

Authors of the two pieces of historical works present their accounts in a clear, well organized, and simple manner. As a result, most readers can easily go through the books and understand the content without any difficulty. Even individuals who have no prior background on Chinese American history can comprehend the two texts.

The authors of the two books have ensured that they maintain the originality of their content. For example, “Island: Poetry and History of Chinese Immigrants on Angel Island, 1910-1940” uses interviews conducted in the Chinese language. On their part, the writers of “Entry Denied: Exclusion and the Chinese Community in America, 1882-1943” have used sources written in Chinese language to support their accounts.

The authors of both books base their arguments on facts. No piece of information is from fabricated sources. As such, the writers provide readers with precise accounts of the suffering of the Chinese community in America. Such detailed content helps scholars to relate with other stories of discrimination and racism among other non-Chinese citizens (Turner 82).

Differences in the Presentation of Information between the Two Books

The books critiqued have too many similarities in the way information is presented. However, there are a few differences. For example, the authors of “Island: Poetry and History of Chinese Immigrants on Angel Island, 1910-1940” are of Chinese American descent. They present their accounts in a highly creative manner. The writers use pictures and interviews to provide a better understanding of the stories. In addition, the authors provide detailed accounts of the sufferings and struggles of the Chinese immigrants. The case is different to the American writers.

Conclusion

A book critique is not just a summary of the literature. A review of the two Chinese American history books makes it evident that both texts are important. The stories narrated in the two books help readers to understand the nature of immigration problems experienced in the 18th and 19th centuries.

Works Cited

Lai, H. Mark, Genny Lim, and Judy Yung. Island: Poetry and History of Chinese Immigrants on Angel Island: 1910-1940, New York: University of Washington, 1991. Print.

McClain, Charles, Christian Fritz, and Lucy Salyer. Entry Denied: Exclusion and the Chinese Community in America: 1882-1943, Philadelphia: Temple UP, 1991. Print.

Miller, Frederic. Chinese American History, Mauritius: Alphascript, 2009. Print.

Ngai, Mae. The Lucky Ones: One Family and the Extraordinary Invention of Chinese America, Boston, Mass.: Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, 2010. Print.

Turner, Barry. The Writer’s Handbook, New York: MacMillan, 2010. Print.

Yung, Judy. Chinese American Voices: From the Gold Rush to the Present, Berkeley: University of California, 2006. Print.

Zhou, Min. Contemporary Chinese America: Immigration, Ethnicity, and Community Transformation, Philadelphia: Temple UP, 2009. Print.

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