The Beginnings of Chinese Literature in America

The Angel Island Poems

The famous poems written on the walls
of the Angel Island detention center,
in San Francisco Bay

Two poems by Xu of Xiangshan
translated by Simei and George Leonard

You've seen Angel Island. It appears in the middle of every postcard of the San Francisco Bay, to the side of Alcatraz, another beautiful green hill in the middle of the blue. The early San Franciscans were fond of using their most beautiful real estate as prisons and detention centers.

Angel Island was not the "Ellis Island of the West," though there were intentional similarities of design. When it opened in 1910 immigration from China had been illegal for years. Nonetheless, between 1910 and 1940, when Angel Island closed, nearly 150,000 enterprising Chinese managed to find provisions in the law which allowed them to enter the country through Angel Island. That number does not include those detained on the island who were ultimately turned away, on many grounds.

Angel Island became the scene of complicated games of strategy that lasted, sometimes, more than a year, as paper sons claiming to be relatives of American Chinese (and therefore allowed to immigrate, for family reunification) dueled with immigration officials. The name itself, paper sons, implies that these men were sons only on paper. The paper sons were armed with coaching papers full of information about their supposed relatives and home towns; the government officials were armed with books of clever questions to trip them up. We are told that the Chinese kitchen staff smuggled information through to the candidates from their supporters on shore.

Reading the questions asked will bring a shock of recognition to anyone who marries a foreign national today, for many are still asked. The government still wants to be sure this isn't a marriage just on paper. In today's brief, benign version you are asked which side of the bed each of you sleep on, and whether you wear pajamas and what kind. (Precisely the details the coaching papers once provided the paper sons about their paper in-laws.) At one point in our first hearing, my wife was made so nervous by the questions I patted her arm. The agent asked sharply, "Is that a code?" We were astonished, realizing he meant Two Pats: Say yes; One Pat: Say no, or something of the kind.

And while the men waited in barracks on Angel Island, they wrote poems on the walls-- poems which have now won considerable fame. When people visit the Island now, the poems, faded but still there, are on the tour.

The Angel Island poems run the gamut from doggerel complaints about being checked for hookworm, and dreams of revenge, to learned ruminations on life's disappointments, filled with allusions to classic literature, like school themes. Although the men were primarily laborers, they were not unlettered.

Almost all the poems are anonymous. Two that stand out (translated below) are signed with the same name, one Xu of Xiangshan, or even Mr. Xu Xiangshan. The name can be translated different ways.

Xiangshan is a famous suburb of Beijing, but the name, Fragrant Hill or Mountain, is not confined to that place. If Xu was from the capital, however, it might explain his breaking with the anonymity of the other poems and proudly signing his work. Ninety-five percent of American Chinese are from the six counties outside Canton and speak Cantonese. As a Mandarin-speaking northerner, Xu would have stood out, or been held out, to begin with. There is no way to know, since Cantonese and Beijingese alike use the same characters, though they speak different languages.

My wife, reading the Angel Island poems with me, was moved by Xu's, and remembered her own first emotions coming here. Xu had really caught the mood, Simei felt. They recalled to her the nightmare she had, her first night in America. There was a horse and a wagon and she jumped on the wagon as the horse started to run away with it. The horse ran, and she held on for dear life. She was here now. There was no going back. You had to hang on, had to fight like hell just to hang on.

In his first poem, the "Flower Flag" was a familiar term for the American flag. Almost all Chinese terms for America were positive. The word for America, Meiguo, means The Beautiful Land, and the Cantonese slang term for us, Gum Shan, Gold Mountain, is no less hopeful. In Mandarin, it's Jiu Jing Shan, Old Gold Mountain. Since 1850, China regards California exactly the way America does-- the place one runs off to, to live free and to make one's fortune. The California Dream spans the Pacific Ocean.

Simei and I have chosen Xu to translate because of his merit, and his inspiring undaunted soul, but also because he wrote a poem about the Angel Island poems themselves.


Just talking about the Flower Flag,
Happiness comes over his face
Give him a thousand liang of gold, you can't stop him.
The relatives left behind.
So much to say but the throat knotted up first.
His wife. The goodbyes. All the feelings. The tears, face to face.

Waves: big as mountains, scaring away the stranger
Laws: vicious as tigers, waiting to taste the animal
Don't forget this day when you step on the land.
Hurl yourself into work. Fight for your future. Never slacken.


On the wall, poems, more than a hundred.
Looks like all are one long sigh.
Worried people to worried people complain
The stranger with the stranger sympathizes.

Get, lose: how do you know it's not your fate?
Rich, poor: who can say it's not because of Heaven?
Now we're stuck here. Why must you complain?
It's always been this way: Heroes must face difficulties first.

Note: We translated from the Chinese versions of Xu's poems. These appear in Island, cited below. Our first poem is Island's #1, on page 43; our second is #27 on page 63. Chinese differs so greatly from English that translations that vary greatly may all be plausible. Ours tries to emulate the conciseness of the original text.

Further Reading

Lai, Him Mark, Genny Lim, and Judy Yung. Island: Poetry and History of Chinese Immigrants on Angel Island, 1910-1940. Seattle and London: University of Washington Press, 1993, reprint of 1980. The definitive book, Island provides a detailed scholarly history, with the Chinese texts of the poems, facing translations.


Chinatown, 1899
C.A. Higgins

[In 1899 the "Passenger Department" of the Atchison, Topeka, and Santa Fe Railroad published a paperback book, To California and Back, that it had commissioned by one C.A. Higgins, now otherwise unknown. The Santa Fe wished Higgins to advertise that a "comprehensive tour of the West" was possible over the "proprietary lines" of the company. The book is a frank attempt to solicit business by advertising the wonders the traveler will see, starting from and returning to Chicago. But To California and Back is no brochure. Higgins took the chance to write 175 closely observed, finely detailed pages about the West, just after the closing of the frontier. Victorianists will recognize John Ruskin's influence, but also the model of Henry Mayhew's carefully reported excursions into London's lower depths, London Labour and the London Poor. Higgins's book, now extremely rare, was printed on fine paper, almost every page of which was richly illustrated with line drawings by J.T. McCutcheon, otherwise as unknown as Higgins, many included here. Higgins wrote poetically about the deserts and with special respect for the southwestern Indian cultures. Chinatown, however, was another story. His reaction is worth reading because it is not only detailed, but completely typical of American attitudes to Chinatown before Japan's attack on Pearl Harbor changed China's image to that of heroic ally. Before World War II, Chinatown filled the same place in American popular fantasies that the Mafia did afterward. Indeed, a Sin City populated by gangsters and slinky prostitutes smoking dope seems to be a necessity to American popular fiction. Higgins' prose, precious even by the standards of the "Aesthetic Nineties," Oscar Wilde's decade, helps him keep a genteel tone while insinuating smut. He seems to have been under orders from the Santa Fe Railroad to let prospective customers know that, so to speak, there was the chance to stop in a kind of Oriental Vegas to see the gamblers and lap dancers. But in 1899, Higgins has to walk a moral line. I love the way he works it out that the white tourist panting to see "genuine wickedness" and the "lowest spectacles" is somehow to be praised for superior "hardihood" in penetrating Chinatown. Higgins dangles Chinatown in front of the 1890s midwestern reader as a "peepshow" where he can safely see scenes of "irredeemable depravity" before regaining the familiar streets of "civilization." The piece would be no more than a fine example of ìorientalism, " of Westerners projecting popular fantasies on Asians, did not Higgins redeem it with hard work, constructing long catalogs of closely observed facts. I have added notes in brackets. GL.]


A few steps from your hotel, at the turn of a corner, you come at once upon the city of the Chinese. It is night, and under the soft glow of paper lanterns and through the gloom of unlighted alleys weaves an oriental throng. Policemen doubtless stand upon a corner here and there, and small parties of tourists pick their way under lead of professional guides; the remaining thousands are Celestials all. [Denotation of terms by editor: ìCelestials" was a common ironic name for the ex-citizens of the Celestial Empire, as was ìJohn Chinaman" in the following sentence.] The scene is of the Chinaman at home, very John, restored to authenticity of type by the countenance of numbers; and so in the twinkling of an eye you become a foreigner in your own land, a tolerated guest in a fantastic realm whose chief apparent hold upon reality is its substratum of genuine wickedness. It is a grotesque jumble, a panopticon of peepshows; women shoemakers huddled in diminutive rooms; barbers with marvelous tackle shaving heads and chins, and cleaning ears and eyeballs, while their patrons sit in the constrained attitude of a victim, meekly holding the tray; clerks, armed with a long pointed stick dipped in ink, soberly making pictures of variant spiders in perpendicular rows; apothecaries expounding the medicinal virtues of desiccated toad and snake; gold-workers making bracelets of the precious metal to be welded about the arm of him who dares not trust his hoard to another's keep; restaurateurs serving really palatable conserves, with pots of delectable tea; shopkeepers vending strange foreign fruits and dubious edibles plucked from the depths of nightmare; merchants displaying infinitude of curious trinkets and elaborate costly wares; worshipers and readers of the book of fate in rich temples niched with uncouth deities; conventional actors playing interminable histrionics to respectful and appreciative auditors; gamblers stoically venturing desperate games of chance with cards and dominoes; opium smokers stretched upon their bunks in a hot atmosphere heavy with sickening fumes; lepers dependent upon occasional alms flung by a hand that avoids the contamination of contact; female chattels, still fair and innocent of face despite unutterable wrongs yet no whit above the level of their deep damnationñsuch is the Chinatown one brings away in lasting memory after three hours of peering, entering, ascending, descending, crossing, and delving. A very orderly and quiet community, withal, for the Mongolian is not commonly an obstreperous individual, and his vices are not of the kind that inflame to deeds of violence. He knows no more convivial bowl than a cup of tea. If he quits the gaming-table penniless, it is with a smile of patient melancholy. And his dens of deepest horror are silent as enchanted halls.

All except its innermost domestic life may be inspected by the curious. The guides are discreet, and do not include the lowest spectacles except upon request, although it is equally true that very many visitors, regarding the entire experience as one of the conventional sights of travel, go fortified with especial hardihood and release their conductor from considerations of delicacy.

[Higgins visits a "temple" and to his credit realizes he isn't seeing the real thing. Enterprising guides seem to have concocted, by 1899, a Disneyish Chinatown-Land to take tourists through.]

The joss houses, or temples [joss, a garbling of the Portuguese word for god, dios, was wrongly thought to be a Chinese word] are hung with ponderous gilded carvings, with costly draperies and rich machinery of worship. The deities are fearful conceptions, ferocious of countenance, bristling with hair and decked with tinseled tubes. A tiny vestal flame burns dimly in a corner, and near it stands a huge gong. An attendant strikes this gong vociferously to arouse the god, and then prostrates himself before the altar, making three salaams. A couple of short billets, half round, are then tossed into the air to bode good or ill luck to you according as they fall upon the one, or the other side. A good augury having been secured by dint of persistent tossing, a quiverful of joss-sticks is next taken in hand and dexterously shaken until three have fallen to the floor. The sticks are numbered, and correspond to paragraphs in a fate book that is next resorted to, and you are ultimately informed that you will live for forty years to come, that you will marry within two years, and, if your sex and air seem to countenance such a venture, that you will shortly make enormous winnings at poker. Whatever of genuine solemnity may cloak the Heathen Chinee in his own relations to his bewhiskered deities, he undoubtedly tips the wink to them when the temple is invaded by itinerant sightseers. The smooth, spectacled interpreter of destinies pays $5,000 a year for the privilege of purveying such mummeries, and hardly can the Heathen Chinee himself repress a twinkle of humor at the termination of a scene in which he so easily comes off best, having fairly outdone his Caucasian critic in cynicism, and for a price.

[Higgins's phrase "the Heathen Chinee" enrolls him in the extremely popular literary tradition dating back to Bret Harte's hugely famous comic poem, "The Heathen Chinee" in which a comic Irish immigrant, William Nye, whose sleeves are stuffed full with cards, keeps losing to a Chinese immigrant, Ah Sin. At last Nye tackles Sin, and turns him upside down, shaking twice as many cards out of his sleeves as Nye had been able to stuff up his. Nye roars self righteously, "We are ruined by Chinese cheap labour." Harte's poem is more a joke on the anti-Chinese Irish-dominated workingmen's leagues, led by the likes of Dennis Kearney, than it is on the Chinese. See Chapter 30, ìEarly History."]

[Higgins faithfully and respectfully describes a visit to San Francisco's Chinese opera, and is aware he's in the presence of serious dramatic conventions he doesn't understand, but parallel in some way to the ìoratorio." His characteristic attention to detail makes the piece a valuable snapshot of turn of the century Chinese American cultural life.]

In the theater he will be found, perhaps contrary to expectation, to take a serious view of art. You are conducted by a tortuous underground passage of successive step-ladders and narrow ways, past innumerable bunk-rooms of opium smokers, to the stage itself, where your entrance creates no disturbance. The Chinese stage is peculiar in that while the actors are outnumbered ten to one by supernumeraries, musicians, and Caucasian visitors, they monopolize the intellectual recognition of the audience. The men who, hat on head, pack the pit, and the women who throng the two galleries, divided into respectable and unrespectable by a rigid meridian, have been educated to a view of the drama which is hardly to be ridiculed by nations that admit the concert and the oratorio. The Chinese simply need less ocular illusion than we in the theater, and perhaps those of us who are familiar with the grotesque devices by which our own stage-veneer is wrought perform no less an intellectual feat than they. Their actors are indeed richly costumed, and, women not being permitted upon the stage, the youths who play female roles are carefully made up for their parts; and one and all they endeavor to impersonate. Almost no other illusion is considered necessary. The stage manager and his assistants now and then erect a small background suggestive of environment, and the province of the orchestra is to accentuate emotionñin which heaven knows they attain no small degree of success. It is highly conventionalized drama, in which any kind of incongruity may elbow the players provided it does not confuse the mind by actually intervening between them and the audience. The plays are largely historical, or at least legendary, and vary in length from six or eight hours to a serial of many consecutive nights' duration. There are stars whose celebrity packs the house to the limit of standing-room, and there are the same strained silent attention and quick rippling response to witty passages that mark our own playhouses; but such demonstrative applause as the clapping of hands and the stamping of feet is unknown. The Chinese theater-goer would as soon think of so testifying enjoyment of a good book in the quiet of his home. But as for the orchestra, let some other write its justification. Such a banging of cymbals, and hammering of gongs, and monotonous squealing of stringed instruments in unrememberable minor intervals almost transcends belief. Without visible leader, and unmarked by any discoverable rhythm, it is nevertheless characterized by unanimity of attack and termination, as well as enthusiasm of execution, and historians of music are authority for the statement that it is based upon an established scale and a scientific theory. Be that as it may, it is a thing of terror first to greet the ear on approach, last to quit it in departure, and may be counted upon for visitation in dreams that follow indigestion.

[At last Higgins must deliver what his employers and his audience have been waiting for: sin. Higgins gets his facts all wrong, but accurately recreates for us his era's stereotype of Chinatown as sin city, filled with Mafia-like tongs, hardboiled gangsters, and enslaved ìsing-song girls" as prostitutes were called. To compare stereotype with reality, see Further Reading.]

The secret society known as the Highbinders was created two and a half centuries ago in China by a band of devoted patriots, and had degenerated into an organization employed to further the ends of avarice and revenge long before it was transplanted to this country. Relieved of the espionage that had in some measure controlled it at home, and easily able to evade a police unfamiliar with the Chinese tongue, it grew in numbers and power with great rapidity. The greater portion of the people of Chinatown has always been honestly industrious and law abiding, but the society rewarded hostility by persecution, ruin, and often death. Merchants were laid under tribute, and every form of industry in the community that was not directly protected by membership in the society was compelled to yield its quota of revenue. Vice was fostered, and courts of law were so corrupted by intimidation of bribery of witnesses that it was next to impossible to convict a Highbinder of any criminal offense. A climax of terror was reached that at last convulsed the environing city, and by the pure effrontery of autocratic power the society itself precipitated its downfall. A peremptory word was given to the police, and a scene ensued which the astonished Celestials were forced to accept as a practical termination of their bloody drama; a small epic of civilization intent on the elevation of heathendom, no inconsiderable portion of which in a short space was blown skyhigh. The Highbinders were scattered, many imprisoned or executed, innumerable dives emptied, temples and secret council-rooms stripped bare, and the society in effect undone. Yet still, for one who has viewed the lowest depths of the Chinatown of today, the name will long revive an uncherished memory of two typical faces, outlined upon a background of nether flame. One is the face of a young woman who, in a cell far underground, leans against a high couch in a manner half-wanton, half-indifferent, and chants an unintelligible barbaric strain. The other is that of her owner, needing only a hangman's knot beneath the ear to complete a wholly satisfactory presentment of irredeemable depravity. And that is why one quits the endless novelties of the peepshow without regret, and draws a breath of relief upon regaining the familiar streets of civilization.

Further Reading

Barth, Gunther Paul. Bitter Strength: A History of the Chinese in the United States, 1850-1870 Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 1964. A full-length and realistic study of the Chinatown Higgins visited 30 years later.
Lai, Him Mark, Genny Lim, and Judy Yung, eds. and trans. Island: Poetry and History of Chinese Immigrants on Angel Island. 1910-1940. Seattle and London: University of Washington Press, 1991. See previous article, "The Beginnings of Chinese Literature in America." Here the San Francisco Chinese contemporaries of the people Higgins might have passed in the street speak out in their own voices.
Wong, Bernard P. Chinatown: Economic Adaptation and Ethnic Identity of the Chinese. New York: Holt, Rinehart and Winston, 1982. A brief sociological account of modern Chinatown.

Asian American Literary Pioneers

by Jeffery Paul Chan and George J. Leonard

We eastern spawn
fermented in the West,
dipped in salt, vinegar, pig's blood,
sugar, alcohol, ashes, lime
claim ourselves.

From Disarmed / 1968-1987 / San Francisco State College by Russell Leong.

[Prefatory note by George J. Leonard: What follows is the record of an education. For better than five years, Jeffery Paul Chan and I have passed this ever-lengthening manuscript back and forth between us, as he educated me about a canon he helped create. To recapture that process, it is told in my voice, with Chan in quotations, responding to questions. Diane Rosenblum, Christine Owens, Jenny Stern, Sonja Hird, Amy Feldman fact-checked and suggested questions over the years. Professor Chan corrected the finished article.]

"Asian American studies," Cornell's Gary Y. Okihiro once wrote, "was built with the stones hurled through closed windows at San Francisco State in 1968" during the epochal San Francisco State Strike. Nationally televised, nationally discussed by every Ted Koppel of the day, the strike ended with various concessions, among them the creation of the nation's first department of Asian American studies, headed by a young writer, Jeffery Chan. "For Asian Americans," Shirley Hune has commented, "San Francisco State will always symbolize the beginnings of the Asian American Studies Movement. . . ."

If Chan and his associates are sometimes controversial in the rarefied atmosphere of campuses today, their significance is never disputed. Any comprehensive work -- like the critically sophisticated and gender conscious Reading Asian American Literature: From Necessity to Extravagance by Sau-ling Cynthia Wong (Princeton: 1993) -- must acknowledge Jeff Chan and friends in the first pages.1 He, Frank Chin, and others of their old gang sometimes seem, to me, to have lived on into the feminized world of 1990s scholarship like a group of Dodge City gunfighters living on into the twentieth century. That gentler world retains a gratitude to them, born partly from the knowledge that, at a certain violent historical moment -- America, 1968 -- if Chan, Chin, and company hadn't been exactly the tough guys they are -- indeed, a bunch of windowbreakers -- Asian Americans might still be "Orientals," and there might not be ethnic studies at all.

The problems of victory, Winston Churchill once said, are preferable to the problems of defeat, "but still problems." As Jeff Chan remembers, "They told us, ëOK, you win. Here's your department. You can teach courses on Asian American Literature.' And when we were alone we looked at each other and said, 'What Asian American literature? Who's that?"

Thus began what now looks like an heroic age of scholarship, as Chan and his friends had to "scramble around and find some." Great stuff was out there, they were sure, undiscovered. Asian American studies will always be grateful to Chan for uncovering books now considered classics -- books that sometimes existed, when he found them, only in a few worn copies. Lawson Inada, the poet, re-creates the mood, the adventure of those days:

"It was 1974," he writes, and --

"We were talking about the book [John Okada's No No Boy]. We had been talking about the book . . . ever since Jeff Chan discovered it in some J-Town San Francisco bookstore in 1970. The book had been published in 1957 and gone practically unnoticed. We discovered it, then, and were passing it on.

"Tonight, it would reach my hand, my life, and the story would continue. So we were talking about the book, in the long Oregon dusk, over a bucket of steamed clams Frank Chin and David Ishii brought down from Seattle. With the book. . . .

"We were going to do something about the book. We knew, we felt, we owed it to us, to John [Okada, the author]: the world had been deprived too long. A book this true and strong was our very substance. So we got as many copies as we could and spread the word, bringing the book to campuses and communities."

In scenes reminiscent of Kerouac, the young writers drove through California, spreading the word, meeting other writers who would become famous, finally driving to meet, and tape-record, John Okada's widow, Dorothy:

It hurt to have her tell us that ìyou two are the first ones who ever came to see him about his work." It hurt to have her tell us that she recently burned his "other novel, about the Issei, which we both researched, and which was almost finished." It hurt to have her tell us that "the people I tried to contact about it never answered so when I moved I burned it, because I have him in my heart". . . It hurt to have her tell us that you really didn't miss meeting him by very long."

That's how near to extinction No No Boy and other classics almost came. In 1974 Chan, Lawson Inada, Frank Chin, and Shawn Wong published a sampler of what they'd found, Aiiieeeee!: An Anthology of Asian American Writers -- "the catalytic and seminal anthology of the new Asian American literary consciousness," poet Garret Hongo called it twenty years later, introducing his own admirable anthology of Asian American poetry.

"Furthermore," Chan, Chin, Inada, and Wong "identified and argued for, in a strongly worded and hectoring introduction, a native-born Asian American literary language and sensibility that was not Oriental or Western European, but a native development of American culture." This vision "liberat[ed] a younger generation of writers. . . ."

In this section we review -- with comments by Professor Chan -- some (not all) of the early milestones of Asian American literature, including works he and his friends discovered during those exciting days. We also include his comments on the mainstream representations of Asian Americans in those clays and how they played a role in Asian America's evolving picture of itself. Chan is still a windowbreaker, never orthodox, and his opinions of works like Flower Drum Song may surprise the reader.

Pardee Lowe

Pardee Lowe was born in 1905, and Lowe's Father and Glorious Descendant, 1943, was the first published book-length literary piece to come out of Chinese America and become a mainstream success. Lowe's book's success coincides with America's sudden wave of affection for the heroic Chinese people, America's allies, who had been fighting off our mutual enemy, the Japanese, since the mid 1930s. Henry Luce, the uniquely powerful publisher of TIME and LIFE was China's greatest cheerleader (before television, LlFE's weekly photospreads were how ordinary Americans got their pictures of the world). Luce was a personal friend of Generalissimo and Madame Chiang Kai-shek.

In 1942 the American government despatched General "Vinegar Joe" Stilwell to lead part of Chiang's army, keeping the Japanese pinned down in China, unable to reinforce their Axis partners elsewhere. As Barbara W. Tuchman described in her excellent biography of Stilwell, America's fondness for the Chinese people, fueled by Luce's war propaganda about their heroics against the Japanese, reached a level never equaled before or since.

Contemporary critics like Elaine Kim and Sau-ling Cynthia Wong argue that Lowe's story reveals his need for acceptance by the white society, an acceptance contemporary Asian writers are in a position to do without. Kim thinks Lowe's autobiography's importance for modern times is only as ìa record of the psychological responses" Lowe had to make to "race discrimination."

Jeff Chan makes a different point about the book:

Pardee Lowe's book is an autobiography, which is the most common genre in Asian American literature. The autobiography was the first writing lesson that every immigrant who came into the country learned. It's part of the process of Americanization. You're writing your autobiography from kindergarten on, or from whatever age you walked in. You keep telling people who you are and why you are. The process distances you from your experience, makes it objective, and also forces you to put your experience into the language that you have to learn to see your past experience in.

This volume's editors, noting that Frank Chin and Jeffery Chan often underline that these autobiographies are Christian, asked Chan, ìChristian autobiographies, since Augustine's Confessions, follow a pattern of past sin leading to confession and present redemption. In early American ethnic biographies the sin seems, in a way, to be ethnicity. The redemption is Americanization. 'Up from Irish-ism,' 'Up from China-ism,' so to speak. Is that part of what you're criticizing here?" Chan agrees, but explains that the power of the free marketplace virtually guarantees that those books predominate. "I mean, who would publish this stuff otherwise?" It has to sell. These flattering accounts of how the immigrant has aspired to be exactly like the reader are "what the broad American audience wants to hear." Such books sell, so such books get published. "And you use it as a naturalization technique."

But Chan has much more respect for Lowe's achievement than Kim or Sucheng Chan has. These younger critics, he notices, grew up in, and write from, a secure post-1965 Civil Rights Bill consciousness of their safety; indeed they mostly write from tenured havens. No one fought harder than Chan to bring that safer world about, but he remembers too clearly how it was before. "Don't knock Pardee Lowe. Think of how Asians had always appeared before Pardee Lowe. Think of what the image of the Asian and Asian American had been! Fu Manchu! Known as ëthe insidious Doctor Fu Manchu' [in the Sax Rohmer novels.] Dragon Ladies in slinky dresses! And (though I personally have no problem with him) even think of a supposedly 'good' Chinese American, the sexless Charlie Chan.

"So at that moment in history," Jeff Chan says, Pardee Lowe's kind of work "is not a problem! You want to see something get published that's slightly better than Charlie Chans and Fu Manchus. Something! Anything!" You want the general public to hear something about Chinese Americans that doesn't have them throwing axes in Tong wars or twisting their evil mustaches. And the most palatable realistic thing to the general public will be these confessional autobiographies.

"I'm ABC," Professor Chan continued, ìAmerican-born Chinese. My father's from Nevada, and his grandmother was a Southern Ute Indian from Colorado. My mother's family is here an equally long time. Believe me, in 1943 Pardee Lowe's Father and Glorious Descendent spoke to me and my friends." Chan's entire generation of Asian Americans "had grown up with nothing but Fu Manchu and Charlie Chan. Whether you hated it or loved it you were moved by Lowe, because it was the first glimmer of recognition of your individuality."

Lowe's book Father and Glorious Descendent is a loving, comic memoir of his old-fashioned father, written by the American son who had to live up to being the "Glorious Descendent," in the formal Chinese phrase. It should be read intertextually against the other American best-sellers of its time. The title was probably meant to position it as a Chinese American version of Clarence Day's mega-bestselling Life With Father (1935) which, when Lowe wrote, had been made into the longest-running play ever on Broadway. The book began as Day-esque vignettes soon after Day's novel appeared. The loving but humorous tone of Lowe's anecdotes also places it in the genre of midcentury ethnic hits like The Goldbergs, which took radio audiences inside a contemporary Jewish home, and the contemporary I Remember Mama, John Van Druten's Broadway success based on Kathryn Forbes' 1943 Mamma's Bank Account, about growing up Norwegian.

Lowe's book strikes a note of admiration and irreverence in the first two sentences: "l strongly suspect that my father's life is a fraud. But if it is, it is a magnificent one." The stories are simultaneously funny, accurate and perhaps more revealing about early twentieth century Chinatown than some critics like. Besides comic stories like the one about Lowe's grandfather's attempt to make wildcat soup, are moving ones about his father tackling an armed Tong gunman who had shot a man in his father's store, and about his father coping with Lowe's marriage to a Caucasian. Lowe does not hesitate to criticize "the inhumanity of this country's immigration laws," and describes his losing battle to support three Chinese orphans in this country, who are eventually deported to China where they vanish in the Japanese invasion. Asian American literary criticism should give Lowe a second look.

Jade Snow Wong

Like Pardee Lowe's book, Jade Snow Wong's Fifth Chinese Daughter (1945) was published before the war in Asia ended, and helped cement in the American consciousness the new image of our brave allies, the Chinese people, who were battling against our common foe. There was a consequent spillover of affection for the Chinese Americans one saw here.

Jade Snow Wong was born on January 21, 1922 in San Francisco's Chinatown. Her autobiography, Fifth Chinese Daughter, speaks of her Chinese upbringing in a fearful white society. Elaine Kim believes that Wong's attitude is a reaction toward familial and community oppression. Her education and life at exclusive Mills College (a women's school in Oakland, California) afforded her an opportunity to expand beyond normal restrictions. Choosing not to reject her Chinese identity, she accepts, instead, the role of interpreter and educator for the Westerners. Jade Snow Wong writes of the difficult and delicate balance of the Asian and American cultures. She writes of her battle to discover a personal balance.

Wong takes a step beyond Pardee Lowe, for she dared to embarrass her American readers by frankly telling them she had faced prejudice from them. "There is no escape from race prejudice; one must simply decide how much to accept and then utilize it." She tries to achieve a personal success in a society that continues to see her as an outsider. She feels it is her "responsibility to try to create understanding between Chinese and Americans" -- writing as if those were inevitably two different things.

However retrograde that attitude seems now, Jeff Chan refuses to deny Wong's value at that historical moment. "I would say much the same of Jade Snow Wong's book as I said of Lowe's." One has to remember Fifth Chinese Daughter was written a half century ago and be realistic. She went as far as the publishers, constrained by the market, would allow. And Asian Americans devoured her book with the same eagerness they had Lowe's. "Her book played, for my friends and myself, a role similar to Pardee Lowe's book. A welcome role. Her son, by the way, is a writer, an explicator of Taoist thought to the United States."

C.Y. Lee

Chin Yang Lee was born December 23, 1917, 30 miles from Changsha, the capital of Hunan province. He lived his early childhood as a Mongolian nomad, never settling in one town and wandering the countryside with his family. At age 11 he was sent to Peking to study at the western schools. After college he wrote as a journalist for several Chinese newspapers and magazines. In 1942 he escaped to the United States and studied drama at Yale Drama School -- surely the first Mongolian nomad to do so.

C.Y. Lee's first novel, The Flower Drum Song (1957), appeared 12 momentous years after Jade Snow Wong's novel. The Warren Court had delivered segregation's death knell, the South was being forcibly desegregated, and American commitment to "minorities" was a newly popular cause. The time was right for a sympathetic portrayal of Chinese life in America. The book was an enormous mainstream hit. It received the ultimate accolade of 1950s American popular success: translation into a Broadway musical by Rodgers and Hammerstein.

With a publishing history like that, one almost assumes that Flower Drum Song is bogus, if not worse, and that a rock-throwing radical from 1968 like Chan would hate it. Quite the reverse.

First, the book had a great deal of historical accuracy. "Flower Drum Song catches a certain moment in the 1950s, during a new era in Chinatown that began with Mao taking over China in 1949." Starting with the Exclusion Act of 1882, America had shut the door tighter and tighter against Chinese over the decades. "The Chinatown that I grew up in, from 1942 to 1950, was all ABC, American Born Chinese, English speaking. No new Chinese immigrants had been allowed in America for generations. Then the American attitude to China began to change, slowly, because of the Chinese stand against the Japanese. Some war brides were allowed in after World War II, but the big event came in 1949, when Mao captured China."

Henry Luce had spent the 1940s convincing the American public that Chiang Kai-shek had the Chinese people's affection. Mao stunned America. In 1949, when the Communists took over, America opened its doors. "All these refugees (they had been our allies, and they were fleeing Communism) were allowed into the United States. Suddenly, Chinatown became this foreign country. And we ABCs moved out. Flower Drum Song accurately captures that moment. It takes place in a Chinatown bifurcated into a Chinese part and an English-speaking part, which I grew up in and belonged to."

C.Y. Lee has been called a "Chinese Saroyan" for his ìcompassionate view of life." Lee says he "has no patience with the intellectual approach to literature"; literature, he believes, is really an "emotional business that cannot be calculated or tabulated. ìAlthough many Asian American writers today think Lee's work refuses to explore political issues, The Flower Drum Song, with its picture of life in 1950s Chinatown, holds a special niche in Asian American literature. The work was-- comparatively -- a breakthrough in the representation of Asian Americans and was deeply admired as such.

Nor can we underestimate the importance for Asian Americans at that time of the musical version by Rodgers and Hammerstein, two Jewish liberals who had graduated from Columbia University. They already had attacked racial prejudice against Asians in South Pacific ("You've got to be taught/ To hate and fear/ It's got to be drummed in your dear little ear/ Before you are six or seven or eight/ To hate all the people your relatives hate/ You've got to be carefully taught.")

Of the Rodgers and Hammerstein musical, Jeffery Chan simply says: "My God, it was everything. It was the very first time that I had ever seen Chinese American actors being American. They could sing! They could dance! It was glorious. The two biggest movies of my youth were Flower Drum Song and Sayonara, with Marlon Brando."

Sayonara was not by an Asian American, but was, Chan notes, an important cultural event for Asian Americans, and so deserves mention. Brando, then America's reigning superstar, guaranteed the film's success by his presence alone. He plays a southern American officer engaged to a general's daughter, then posted to Japan. He befriends a soldier (Red Buttons -- Oscar performance) who has happily married a Japanese. Intrigued, Brando meets and falls in love with a Japanese himself. His southern heritage makes him fight against his love as ìmiscegenation" and during that fight he relays to Buttons an official -- and racist -- command to leave his wife and move on. Rather than part, the soldier and his Japanese wife commit suicide. Brando, in revulsion at the racism that has caused this tragedy, overcomes his southern upbringing, throws away the general's daughter (and his career, it seems) to defy the order and marry his love.

Jeff Chan comments, "Flower Drum and Sayonara were romanticizations, they were 'orientalism' -- absolutely! But they meant so much at that time. You have to understand we'd never been exposed to anything good before -- I once went to the library and looked up Jung, because, from the sound of his name, I hoped he was Chinese. I can still see Brando at the end of Sayonara -- the title means, 'Goodbye' -- walking away with his Asian wife, as the press yells at him, 'What will we tell the generals? What will we tell America?' And he says, ëJust tell them: Sayonara. ' I said, ëAll right! Get down!' or 1950s words to that effect. In that sense both works were very timely. I was thirteen or fourteen and they finally gave me a way, as a young man, to think about myself."

In the 1990s C.Y. Lee, in his seventies, was still publishing, most recently about the 1989 Chinese Communist massacre in Tiananmen Square. During the 1970s he had written about Tong wars in California. ìLee's daughter is also a writer," Jeff Chan adds.

Toshio Mori and Hisaye Yamamoto

Toshio Mori (1910-1980) and Hisaye Yamamoto (b. 1921) are two Japanese American short story writers of the Nisei (American-born generation) experience. Mori was born in Oakland, California, Yamamoto in Redondo Beach, near LA. Each is best known for one brief work that went unnoticed when first published. Both were showcased in Jeff Chan's canon-making 1974 anthology and are now considered classic writers of the Japanese American experience.

Mori's stories, collected in Yokohama, California, evoke the northern California "J-towns" of the 1920s and 1930s. He was interned in the Topaz concentration camp, where he started a magazine, Trek.Hisaye Yamamoto's work consists of only seven short stories published between 1948 and 1961. As a body of work, it is a veritable haiku, and the title of her one collection, Seventeen Syllables and Other Stories alludes to that terse 17-syllable poetic form. In 1961 she made a decision to stop writing and give all her time to her family. There is something in that decision that seems both characteristic of her generation, and characteristic of an artist so in love with haiku-like concision, she has decided that adding another word to her oeuvre will diminish it.

Of Yamamoto, Jeff Chan exclaims, "She's the real thing! She's the best Japanese American short story writer, surely. Her stories, I've often said, are remarkable for their range and their gut understanding of Japanese America -- among the most highly developed of all Asian American writing. Her greatest story is 'The Legend of Miss Sasagawara.' It's also the only story that takes place inside the concentration camps written by a Japanese American who was of age -- not a child at the time.

"Yamamoto's story is told from the point of view of a 19 year-old who thinks that life is wonderful. She's about to go to college. And she's confronted by this character Miss Sasagawara who apparently had been a very successful ballet dancer, but now, at the end of her career, age 39, finds herself in a concentration camp. Parallels are being drawn between the teenager at 19 and the ballet dancer, who apparently never married and whose mother has just died. The teenager thinks life is wonderful and the whole world's before her. The ballet dancer finds herself at 39 in a concentration camp having a nervous breakdown. The question asked is 'Which one of them is crazy? ëA great story. You can find ëThe Legend of Miss Sasagawara' in Seventeen Syllables.

"What's wonderful about Yamamoto's writing is that she remembers perfectly how it feels to be 19, feeling absolutely free and the world is open to you. As soon as the war will be over -- no problem! Yet you read the tension behind that, the illusion, and it just undermines it. Ironically, all the writers that are younger than she is, exaggerate the whole thing: here's the camp, it's a terrible place and all these terrible things happen -- which they did, of course. But they don't know these events as participants that actually experienced them."

Monica Sone

A good complement to Yamamoto's short stories would be the fuller treatment of the camps in Monica Sone's Nisei Daughter, which was first published by Little, Brown, in 1953, but made little impact then. The University of Washington Press brought out a new edition in 1979, at a time when the Japanese American community was embarked on its campaign for "redress," an apology and a payment to all Japanese Americans who had been put in the camps. Redress came at the end of the 1980s.

Sone's memoir is set in the Seattle Japanese community. She writes with a light and humorous touch, but she grew up to be a clinical psychologist, and she writes of her characters with professional incisiveness. The first paragraph gives the book's flavor:

The first five years of my life I lived in amoebic bliss, not knowing whether I was plant or animal, at the old Carrollton Hotel on the waterfront of Seattle. One day when I was a happy six year old, I made the shocking discovery that I had Japanese blood. I was a Japanese.

The portrait of a little girl living in ìamoebic bliss" inside a strong, loving family -- bliss, even though that family lives in a "Skidrow" residential hotel between a bar and a burlesque theater -- is both charming and troubling. Later, the little girl is taken back to Japan to be shown off to her grandparents. The family is taken sightseeing and is told that a certain bridge, the Shinkyo Bridge, is ìsacred to the gods," and only the emperor may walk on it. Monica, like any self- respecting American girl given such a challenge, sneaks away from her family and climbs up on the sacred bridge herself, to the horror of the 1930s emperor-worshipping Japanese. It's a wonderful scene, which captures in an instant the distance between the Japanese psyche and the Japanese American child's.

Sone's wartime incarceration gets only 70 pages. The powerful family that enabled her to live on Skidrow in "amoebic bliss" cushions her during this ordeal as well. She remembers anger and fear, remembers Tommy guns and barbed wire; but Sone may have been just too well-loved and well-balanced a person by then to have been as deeply affected by it as other people were. Nor did it play a large role in her mental economy. After the war, she went on happily with her life. Sone's personal strength is, therefore, her work's weakness. This naturally sunny person, miraculously stabilized by her personal internal gyroscope, is not the ideal reporter of what was, to most, a dismal experience.

Sone's book is sometimes proposed as a more authentic document for classes than Jeanne Houston's camp narrative, discussed next.

Jeanne Wakatsuki Houston

Jeanne Wakatsuki Houston wrote only one book, the famous Farewell to Manzanar, a perennial bestseller about the Japanese concentration camps that has been called a Japanese American Diary of Anne Frank. It is much assigned. Back in the 1970s some militants challenged the book's authenticity, since it was co-authored with the writer's husband, a famous (white) writer. Jeff Chan told the editors of this volume that all that was a dead issue, noting that the Houstons gave the Redress movement (which led to the federal government apologizing to all former internees and paying each $20,000) great and needed support -- and so did, no doubt, the consciousness raising novel, Farewell to Manzanar.

Jeanne Houston and her husband, a renowned writer, went into it together, but there's no reason to question Jeanne's contribution," Chan shrugs. "You have so many different points of view in the camps. All the most popularly accepted portrayals of the camp experience were written or scripted by the next generation, Jeanne's generation. The loss of the immediate experience of the camps always changes the portrait of it. The different generations would have different reasons for portraying the evacuation, different points of view. The only Japanese American writer who wrote a fictional piece that happens in the camp and who was old enough to experience it is Yamamoto. (Monica Sone's book is not fiction.) Even Toshio Mori, another fine fictionalist, didn't write a piece that was set in camp. It's the weirdest thing, that no more was written than that."

Critics generally agree that Houston's goal, writing, was to create a Japanese American version of Anne Frank's autobiography. Perhaps so--but that Houston wrote a work of comparable emotional power is no small feat! Chan feels, however, an emotional distance between writer and subject, noting that Jeanne was little more than a toddler when interned, and she must be reconstructing a great deal, which is different from actually remembering.

Chan has nothing but praise, however, for certain post-camp scenes, which involve a topic the writer does remember, and is in full emotional contact with: what it means to be an Asian American woman. It is surprising that 1990s feminist criticism has overlooked these scenes. From the time Jeanne reaches puberty, in camp, much of the book involves her immigrant father's attempts to push her toward odori school, with its lessons in how to be what Japan considered feminine -- and Jeanne's rebellious efforts to become as American as possible. After camp, when a catty troupe of Girl Scouts exclude her, she discovers she can use her budding "sexuality" to become, instead, a drum majorette for the Boy Scouts. "I was too young to consciously use my sexuality or to understand how an Oriental female can fascinate Caucasian men . . . but I knew intuitively that one resource I had to overcome the war-distorted limitations of my race would be my femininity." Jeanne's efforts culminate in her election as high school Spring Carnival Queen, which she wins by "going exotic," appearing at the contest submissively barefoot, in a sarong, with a flower behind her ear. The victory turns to ashes when she tries to dress "respectable" at the ball, in a formal white dress. People are confused. "It wasn't the girl in this old fashioned dress that they had voted for. But if not her, who had they voted for?" The price of transforming yourself into someone's fantasy, turns out to be losing your reality. Houston's stories raise fascinating questions about gender roles, intermarriage, sexual stereotype, and even existential ìauthenticity," in the Sartrean sense.

Louis Chu

Louis Chu was born in Toishan, China on October 1, 1915, and immigrated to Newark, New Jersey in 1924. Chu was a well-known figure in the Chinatown of his day, an important public official in the Department of Welfare, a man with an advanced degree from New York University, executive secretary of the powerful Soo Yuen Benevolent Association, and even the host of a radio program called "Chinese Festival."

He published Eat a Bowl of Tea in 1961, a satire set in the Chinese "bachelor community" of the 1940s. Elaine Kim calls Eat a Bowl of Tea a "compassionate portrait of daily life, manners, attitudes, and problems in the Chinese [1940s] community from the viewpoint of laundrymen and waiters." The novel -- made into a feature film by former San Francisco State student, the director Wayne Wang -- is indeed our best portrait of that vanished world. Jeff Chan rediscovered the book as he did John Okada's, and he remembers how close Eat a Bowl of Tea came to being lost.

"After the strike, after we were given our own Asian American studies department, the first course we were allowed to teach was an ëAsian American literature' class. And we were desperate. We had no literature. At first, people who were political activists enrolled in the course to make sure that we had enough heads so the Administration couldn't cancel it. Then other kids -- genuinely interested in literature -- started coming out of the woodwork. Very quiet kids like Herbie Chu.

Herbie brought this book in that his aunt, who was the assistant fiscal officer at San Francisco State at the time, gave him. She had always had an interest in Chinese American literature. She said, "Take this to them. I'll bet they never saw anything like this before." And she was right.

"Eat a Bowl of Tea was our first book. We had nothing else. And we only had one copy of that. We immediately took it and made photocopies of it. It was out of print. We couldn't find it. Couldn't order it. It had been published, you see, by a very odd publisher: Lyle Stuart. Stuart usually published gambling books and soft core porn. But when he was a young man in New York first assigned to publish books, his best friend was a Chinatown social worker named Louis Chu. They would eat lunch together. Well, Louis had a book he had written, and he showed it to Stuart. It had to do with gambling. It had to do with prostitution in Chinatown. In 1961 Lyle Stuart published it.

"I finally caught up with Stuart and discovered he did have some copies left. He had taken home the left-overs from the tiny original edition and had them sitting in his basement. So for two semesters, until the paperback came out, the kids were buying for $2.95, hard bound first editions of Eat a Bowl of Tea.

"Stuart didn't make money on the book until 20 years later when Wayne Wang based his second movie on it. He read the book in that class! You see how it happens. Wayne came from Hong Kong, was a student in San Francisco State's Ethnic Studies program, and took our class. But he always wanted to be a film maker.

Eat a Bowl of Tea is set in the 1940s Chinese bachelor society. The 'bachelor society' was a community that lay moribund at the close of World War II, enclaves of old men trapped by racist immigration laws to live out their days in San Francisco, Seattle, Los Angeles, Boston, and New York City. With allegiances tied to wives and family barred from entering the United States, they found refuge in the back rooms of barbershops and restaurants, at the local tong, in the repartee and rivalries exchanged over a game of mah jong. Louis Chu captures their vanities and illusions."

That being said, Jeff Chan sharply disagrees with scholarly attempts to reduce the novel to sociology and read it as a story of old Chinatown restaurant life. Chan points out that "the two main characters are gamblers -- also prominent figures in Chinatown's daily life during that era." Chan sees the novel as a "biting satire with a powerful subtext. A Cantonese speaker or someone versed in Chinese literature will be aware of all the puns. The characters' names, for instance, pun on the roles they play in the novel. The female lead, Mei Oi, is nicknamed Moi Moi. A moi is the plum that the Chinese herbalist gives you after you take bitter medicine. The bitter medicine she shells out is that she's going to have an illegitimate child that her husband will have to legitimize. Her husband, Ben Loy's name, is really subtle. If, in Chinese, you change the tone slightly, it means 'a sickness is coming' in Toishan dialect, much used in the Chinatown of that era. That foreshadows his impotence. His whole name, Wang Ben Loi, actually means 'King of Internal Illness.'

The novel, therefore, is no simple social realist tract, but something Joycean in its complexity, a puzzle of mathematical games as well. The address of the bachelor headquarters is 45 Catherine Street and where they live is 87 Mott Street. One address counts up to the number 6 and the other, down to 6. The word ësix,' in Cantonese, is a pun on the word for green -- and 'to wear a green hat' in Cantonese means you're a cuckold, which is exactly what happens to Ben Loy. Six is the cuckold's number. When Mei Oi's bracelet is being examined by a potential lover, Louis Chu works it so the number six pops up again. Joyce demanded you know Dublin and sometimes Gaelic to understand his jokes. Here too there's an enjoyable subtext that speaks to the knowing, particularly to Toishan speakers, where the puns work best. Yet it wasn't Joyce who influenced Louis Chu the most, it was Shakespeare. The character who is going to be cuckolded, for instance, has a birthday on March 15th: Beware the ides of March! which we all remember from Julius Caesar."

In sum, Prof. Chan's point is that Chu's novel is anything but the quasidocumentary, social realist work that Elaine Kim and others would make it. "It is true that Chu was a highly respected social worker and the novel is grounded in reality. But he's not writing a documentary about Chinatown. It's a black comedy about a gambler, full of puzzles and wit."

John Okada

Jeff Chan writes: "John Okada's No-No Boy (1957) was a forgotten, neglected, and rejected novel about Japanese America that every Japanese American knew about but never read during Okada's lifetime. In the 14 years that John Okada lived with his book, he saw it slip into obscurity and fail to sell out an edition of 1,500 copies. Japanese Americans out to prove to America that they were loyal and perfect Americans after the war sidestepped Okada's fictional community full of pain, depression, suicide, anger, bitterness, and guilt.

"Okada was born in the old Merchants' Hotel in the Pioneer Square area of Seattle with the help of a Japanese midwife. He received two bachelor's degrees from the University of Washington, one in library science and the other in English, and later received a master's degree in English at Columbia University, where he met his wife Dorothy. He served as a sergeant in the U.S. Air Force during World War II.

"Five years after Okada's death of a heart attack in 1971, the Combined Asian American Resources Project reprinted his landmark novel, back then the only novel written by a Japanese American Writer. Its time had come. The book sold out two printings of 3,000 each, mainly to Japanese American readers who were ready to look back at themselves. The University of Washington Press has continued to publish No-No Boy with two additional printings."

With Okada's work, we have reached the threshold of modern Asian American literature: post-sixties, post-Civil Rights movement, post-1965 Immigration Act, and the arrival of the "new wave" of Asians.

Shawn Wong is, perhaps, the last Asian American writer -- and surely the last Chinese American writer -- who can be called a "pioneer." "Amazingly," Chan remarks, ìShawn's 1982 novel Homebase is the first novel published by an American-born Chinese American. We could quibble about what is and what is not literature, what is a novel, and the like; but I remember Ishmael Reed (who published it, I. Reed Books) making that assertion good at the time of publication.

"Shawn Wong was born in Oakland, California and raised in Berkeley. Homebase, won the Pacific Northwest Booksellers Award and a Washington State Governor's Writers' Day Award. A German edition of Homebase was published in 1982. In addition to coediting Aiiieeeee! and The Big Aiiieeeee!, he has edited two other volumes of Asian American literature. Wong is also a recipient of a National Endowment for the Arts creative writing fellowship. A graduate of the University of California at Berkeley and San Francisco State University, Wong has taught at Mills College, University of California at Santa Cruz, and San Francisco State University. He is a former chairman of the Seattle Arts Commission and is presently the chairman of the English Department at the University of Washington.

"Shawn scored a major success with his 1995 novel American Knees. For a general audience, it's a spritely sex comedy, a twisty tale of love, marriage, divorce -- modern coupling, Asian American style. For those of us familiar with the themes he works, the immigrant scion as orphan, the history embedded in indecipherable glyphs, anonymous figures we translate as father and mother, Wong treads a familiar and a welcome landscape in this new work."

This section in particular could have been infinitiely longer. Other fine authors, and selectoons from many of the ì pioneer" figures quoted, may be found in the enlarged version of Porfessor Chan's anthology, itself a milestonde in Asian American literature. See The Big Aiiieeeee! :An Anthology of Chinese American and Janpanese American Lirerature, edited by Jeffery Paul Chan, Frank Chin, Lawson fusao Inada, and Shawn Wong.

To research a new author, one should not overlook Contemporary Authors and Contemporary Literary Criticism, reference works that almost all public and college libraries carry.

The best introductory bibliography for Asian American literature was compiled by Amy Ling, a contributor to this volume, for the standard reference work Redefing American Lirerary Histrory (New York: Modern language Association, 1990,) pp. 353 362. Ten pages of fine print roganized by genre and by ethnicity.


Shawn Wong. Homebase. (New York: I. Reed, 1979), p.8.

Further Reading

Chu,Louis N. eat a Bowl of Tea. Seattle, WA: University of Washington Press.

Houston, Jeanne Wakatsuki. Beyond Manzanar: View of Asian-American Womanhood. Santa Barbara, CA:Capra, 1985.

------and James D. Houston. Farewell to Manzanar. San Francisco, CA: San Francisco Book-Houghton, 1973.

Lee, Chin-Yong. Flower Drum Song. New York: Farrar, 1957.

-------Lover's Point. New York: Stratford, 1958.

Lower, Pardee. Father and Glorious Descendant. Bosoton: Little, 1943.

Mori, Toshio. The Chauvinist and Other Stories. Los Angeles: Asian- American Studies Center, University of California, 1979.

--------. Yokohama, California. Calwell: Caxton, 1949.

Okada, John. No-No boy. Rutland: Tuttle, 1957; Seattle, WA: University of Washington, 1979.

Sone, Monica. Niser Daughter. Boston,MA: Little, 1953; Seattle: University of Washington Press,1979.

Wong, Jade Snow. Fifth Chinese Doughter. New York: Harper, 1945.

--------. No Chinese Stranger. New York: Harper, 1945. Wong, Shawn.

Homebase. New York: Reed, 1979,p.8.

Yamamoto, Hisaye. Seventeen Syllables. Introd. King-kok Cheung. Latham: Kichen Table-women of color,1989.

[End Note. For reasons of space, this excerpt must end here, but in the book, it prefaces countless detailed studies of important authors and artists. Asian Pacific American Heritage: a Companion to Literature and Arts is over 700 pages of ten point type. Most importantly, this excerpt cannot include Prof. Chan's long articles on Lawson Fusao Inada, the most important Japanese American poet of the 20th century, and Frank Chin, the first Asian American dramatist. We direct interested readers to the book, for equally important articles on Younghill Kang, Carlos Bulosan, Kim Ronyoung, as well as later figures like Maxine Hong Kingston, Amy Tan, David Henry Hwang, Peter Bacho, Wayne Wang, Jessica Hagedorn, Garret Hongo, Cathy Song, and innumerable others. --George J. Leonard.]