The history of any country is rich in numerous meaningful events resulting in significant changes in the structure of the society and its further development. The importance of these events and their impact is underlined by the great attention investigators and historians devote to them trying to emphasize the main reasons for the appearance of certain processes and the impact they have on the world. However, they use various approaches and perspectives to analyze the same event and admit its role in the history, For this reason, there are numerous works and books presented by various authors tending to provide their vision of the way the state evolved and the facts conditioned this development.
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This variety of sources is crucial for investigators as it promotes a better understanding of the issue and its analysis. In this regard, the review of the books The Chinese of America by Jack Chen and The Chinese Americans by Milton Meltzer might contribute to the acquisition of the knowledge of the major concepts related to the life of Chinese immigrants in the USA and their contribution to the development of the state. The analysis could also present the perspectives of Chinese Americans and just American authors.
The first book under investigation, The Chinese of America by Jack Chen was published by Harpercollins in 1981, in New York. The first edition of the book became popular among various representatives of society. Another book, The Chinese Americans by Milton Meltzer was published by Thomas Y. Crowell Company in 1980, New York. Summarizing the plot of these books, one could admit the similarity of the main motifs and events described by the authors. Both Chen and Meltzer present the life and survival of Chinese immigrants who arrived in the USA and struggling for success and beneficial development.
The books also provide detailed information about the environment that existed at that time and actions the Chinese had to perform to survive. The Chinese of America traces the roots of immigration and describes the events starting from 1800. The writer tends to present the story of the representatives of this social class and highlights the challenges they faced and the problems they had to solve. Additionally, he revolves around the perspectives awaited them and the desire of the Chinese people to attain good living conditions and become members of society. The book covers a long time, ending with the description of the changes in the social status of Chinese people in the USA at the end of the 20th century. It helps to reconsider the role of the immigrants and the obstacles they had to overcome.
Therefore, Chinese Americans revolve around the same issue; however, it presents the material from another perspective. It also traces the history of the Chinese in the USA, emphasizing their impact on the development of the country and desire to improve their status and social conditions. The author is interested in the great social shifts and processes that resulted in the establishment of modern conditions under which these people live in the USA. For this reason, the book cogitates about the hardships and stereotypes the Chinese had to overcome to become prosperous in the new state. Additionally, Meltzer provides a great deal of information related to the biased attitude and discrimination.
Summarizing the given books, it is also crucial to mention their focus on the investigation of the moral aspect of the evolution of the question of the Chinese immigrants. Chen tends to provide a reader with the crucial changes in the mentality of both people arriving in the USA and its citizens, emphasizing the fact that the given changes were conditioned by several factors. The shift under the impact of the increasing significance of the Chinese was one of the major concerns.
Realizing the contribution of immigrants to the development of the state, its citizens also recognized the necessity of the creation of the beneficial conditions needed for the further evolution of immigrants communities and their integration into the existing society. Meltzer is also blunt about the significant role the economic factor played in the process of the reconsideration of the attitude towards the immigrants and the shifts in the mentality of people. Analyzing the sphere of economy, he concludes that the Chinese people contributed to the financial power of the state greatly and conditioned it is becoming one of the most powerful states. Finally, these books suggest crucial information about the essential processes in the establishment of the USA, the development of tolerance and the formation of its modern image.
Being a representative of the Chinese culture, Chen is more focused on the description of the life of immigrants from their perspective, underlining the great impact the process had on the mentality and culture of the Chinese. For this reason, he formulates the thesis that traditionally, the immigrants from China had to work hard with minimum living expenses to guarantee their survival and contribute to the prosperity of their children (Chen 21).
The author proves this statement by the description of the living conditions and activities they had to perform in Gold Mountain, at the time of their first arrival in the USA. Chen underlines that the immigrants brought their unique heritage and peculiarities of culture which had an overwhelming effect on the further development of their community and the whole state. At the same time, the author highlights the fact that the Chinese had to face some challenges that appeared under the impact of local people trying to resist the further development of the hardworking and promising community.
In this regard, Chen introduces the oppression and biased attitude towards the immigrants and the problems created by the local governments and their communities. The federal 1882 Chinese Exclusion Act of Congress was aimed at the creation of the legal basis for the living and working of the Chinese people in the USA and was based on race (Chen 45). However, it was just the beginning of the evolution of the community.
Besides, Meltzer also tends to underline the unfair and biased attitude towards Chinese immigrants in the first stages of the development of the state. He prefers to omit unnecessary adjectives and details, providing a reader with sober facts related to the life and work of the first immigrants. Meltzer emphasizes the idea that the immigrants contribution to the development of the economy and industry of the USA could hardly be overestimated (87).
Thousands of the Chinese workers were used to build the Western end of the Transcontinental railroad and establish a stable connection between the parts of the big state. Meltzer repeats Chen and revolves around the unfair working conditions created for immigrants. Being forced to work harder, they were paid less for the local people performing the most dangerous job. The absence of at least primitive safety measures and the contemptuous disregard resulted in numerous accidents and causalities.
For this reason, about ten percent of the Chinese workers died while building the railroad. Meltzer also cogitates about the role of the state in the process and the legal base promoted the growth of the discrimination. Another major concern is the immigrants attempts to create a beneficial environment for their development which were not appreciated by the local people. Unlike Chen, Meltzer does not provide detailed information related to the personal attitude of Chinese families and is focused on the facts supporting the evolution of the community.
As stated above, both books describe the relations between the local people and the Chinese immigrants, using different perspectives to provide significant information. Chen introduces the problems a common Chinese family faced in the process of the development of the community. The author focuses on the manifestations of racism and the anti-Chinese movements peculiar to the USA of the 19th century. The slogan “The Chinese must go!” (Chen 117) became one of the most important concerns in the social and political life of society. The complexity of the problem was supported by the crisis America faced in 1870 (Chen 120).
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In these regards, Chen revolves around the resolution of the immigrants and the peculiarities of their character which helped them to continue the struggle hoping to attain the significant improvement of the relation towards them and their living conditions. The book provides information related to all hardships; however, the author is more interested in the description of the emotional side of the problem and the demonstration of the Chinese peoples vision of the problem.
Similarly, Meltzer highlights the biased attitude towards the Chinese which gave rise to several concerns. The disregard of the main rights and the scornful attitude towards immigrants were some of them. The author introduces the problem of the inferior races and the impact the evolution of this concept had on the further development of the society of the USA. White workers beat and killed the Chinese ones, be sure that their actions could not be taken as illegal.
Additionally, the author emphasizes the prohibition of the immigration of wives, intermarriages (Meltzer 109). All these actions were aimed at the creation of the unbearable hardships for immigrants not to be able to overcome them and assimilate. Furthermore, the Chinese people were not allowed to become the citizens of the USA because of their race and social status. Yet, Meltzer does not pinpoint the feelings of the Chinese people who had to face a biased attitude and the obstacles created by the government and society. He just enumerates the facts, leaving it for a reader to cogitate about the ethical side of certain actions and measures.
Cogitating about the role the government played in the process of the assimilation of the Chinese immigrants, Chen criticizes the actions and laws which existed at that period. The author is sure that the government was not able to realize the potential of the new people arrived it the state and tried to create numerous obstacles to stop their assimilation and becoming the citizens of the USA (Chen 139). For this reason, the creation of the legal basis for the discrimination was quite logical as it was aimed at the limitation of the development of the Chinese community and the creation of artificial obstacles.
However, the great contribution of immigrants to the development of the country and their impact on the economy triggered the significant process of the reconsideration of the attitude towards the Chinese. Their activity initiated the growth of the agricultural sector, such branches of industry as a fishery, cannery, and light industry (Chen 133). These achievements resulted in the recognition of their rights and conferment of nationality.
Besides, Meltzer also agrees that the impact of the Chinese community on the economy and industry of the USA was the major concern resulting in the change of attitude towards them (79). However, even under these conditions, the government was not interested in the creation of a prosperous environment and tried to limit the development of the community. For instance, the California Law denied protection and schooling to Chinese people (Meltzer 67), trying to increase the level of tension and continue the policy of discrimination. The author underlines that the scale of the challenge was significant, and the representatives of the community had no one to protect them. The situation started to improve after the years of oppression and discrimination which increased the tension in the relations between local people and Chinese communities.
Finally, both Meltzer and Chen accept the significant impact the Chinese culture had on the evolution of the US one. Meltzer admits the fact that the modern representatives of the Chinese communities try to adhere to the peculiarities of the culture of the ancestors; however, their mentality is altered by the interaction with the culture of several nationalities living in the state. In the last chapter, he states that Chinese people accepted America as a new homeland and contributed to its development greatly. The generation of the Chinese-Americans is integrated into modern society though it tries to preserve its unique culture. Meltzer also highlights the great results of the evolution of the Chinese community and admits the impact its modern representatives have on the further progress of the society.
Comparing the books written by a Chinese- American and a common writer, the differences in the approaches could be noted. Chen is more interested in the presentation of the attitude of the Chinese people towards various events and actions. Being a representative of this community, he knows well the most important stages of its evolution, and, for this reason, he can present a reader with the credible evidence about the hardships and challenges the Chinese had to overcome. Meltzer, on the contrary, is focused on the facts related to the concern and tends to describe the events detachedly, just underlining the existence of racism, discrimination and the idea of the inferior nation.
In conclusion, although Chen and Meltzer use different approaches, the books are the credible sources contributing to the better understanding of the epoch, the peculiarities of the growth of the Chinese community in the USA, and the impact it had on the society.
Chen, Jack. The Chinese of America. San Francisco: Harper & Row, 1982. Print.
Meltzer, Milton. The Chinese Americans. New York: Crowell, 1980. Print.