Beginning c. 1850, this work relates the experiences and context in which diverse groups of Asian American children lived their lives. The voices of children, included in the primary documents, provide a vivid narrative of immigrant life over the past 150 years. While the lives of children were generally included in historical narratives of the country, a focus specifically on children allows the reader to more fully understand the central place of family in the economic and social development of a nation.
• Part 1 offers a synoptic narrative history, a chronology, and a set of periodizations that reflect different ways of constructing the Asian American past.
• Part 2 presents lucid discussions of historical debates—such as interpreting the anti-Chinese movement of the late 1800s and the underlying causes of Japanese American internment during World War II—and such emerging themes as transnationalism and women and gender issues.
• Part 3 contains a historiographical essay and a wide-ranging compilation of book, film, and electronic resources for further study of core themes and groups, including Chinese, Japanese, Filipino, Hmong, Indian, Korean, Vietnamese, and others.
The second section shows how children of the immigrants developed a sense of themselves as having a distinct identity as Chinese Americans. For this generation, many of the opportunities available to other immigrants' children were simply inaccessible. In some districts explicit policies kept Chinese children in segregated schools; in many workplaces discriminatory practices kept them from being hired or from advancing beyond the lowest positions. In the 1930s, in fact, some Chinese Americans felt their only option was to emigrate to China, where they could find jobs better matched to their abilities. Many young Chinese women who were eager to take advantage of the educational and work options opening to women in the wider U.S. society first had to overcome their family's opposition and then racism. As the personal testimonies and historical biographies eloquently attest, these young people deeply felt the contradictions between Chinese and American ways; but they also saw themselves as having to balance the demands of the two cultures rather than as having to choose between them.
The personal nature of these documents makes for compelling reading. We hear the voices of prostitutes and domestic slavegirls, immigrant wives of merchants, Christians and pagans, homemakers, and social activists alike. We read the stories of daughters who confronted cultural conflicts and racial discrimination; the myriad ways women coped with the Great Depression; and personal contributions to the causes of women's emancipation, Chinese nationalism, workers' rights, and World War II. The symphony of voices presented here lends immediacy and authenticity to our understanding of the Chinese American women's lives.
This rich collection of women's stories also serves to demonstrate collective change over time as well as to highlight individual struggles for survival and advancement in both private and public spheres. An educational tool on researching and reclaiming women's history, Unbound Voices offers us a valuable lesson on how one group of women overcame the legacy of bound feet and bound lives in America. The selections are accompanied by photographs, with extensive introductions and annotation by Judy Yung, a noted authority on primary resources relating to the history of Chinese American women.
Unlike the earlier and larger groups of Asian immigrants to America, many of whom made the choice to emigrate to seek better economic opportunities, many of the groups discussed in this volume fled war or political persecution in their homeland. Forced to make drastic transitions in America with little physical or psychological preparation, questions of “why am I here,” “who am I,” and “why am I discriminated against,” remain at the heart of their post-emigration experiences.
Bringing together eminent scholars from a variety of disciplines, this collection considers a wide range of themes, including assimilation and adaptation, immigration patterns, community, education, ethnicity, economics, family, gender, marriage, religion, sexuality, and work.