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At America's Gates: Chinese Immigration during the Exclusion Era, 1882-1943 Paperback – May 19, 2003

ISBN-13: 978-0807854488 ISBN-10: 0807854484 Edition: First Paperback Edition

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At America's Gates: Chinese Immigration during the Exclusion Era, 1882-1943 + Dividing Lines: The Politics of Immigration Control in America (Princeton Studies in American Politics: Historical, International, and Comparative Perspectives) + Tom Paine's America: The Rise and Fall of Transatlantic Radicalism in the Early Republic (Jeffersonian America)
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Editorial Reviews

Review

"Lee addresses a multiplicity of issues and deftly weaves together several themes that, in the past, had been treated separately." - Sucheng Chan, University of California, Santa Barbara

Review

The author's openness and sensitivity to the inherent problems and flaws with the government records of the Chinese immigrants . . . demonstrates her seriousness and carefulness as a scholar, and her skillful dissecting of a body of enormously complicated materials makes the book a remarkable historical study. With its elegant style and clear language, this book can be appreciated not only by scholars and graduate and undergraduate students but also by the general public.--Journal of American History|This is the most thorough, complex, and subtle study I have read about Chinese immigration during the era of exclusion. Erika Lee's book offers both a remarkable social history of the Chinese immigrants who challenged the laws meant to keep them out and a sobering account of how suspicions of nonwhite immigrants legitimated the expansion of repressive state power. A major contribution to the history of immigration, race, and nation in modern America.--Gary Gerstle, author of American Crucible: Race and Nation in the Twentieth Century|At America's Gates is a tour de force in Chinese immigration history. . . . Lee's work is comprehensive in its historical and archival research and progressive in its transnational discourse, which explores both the local and global dimensions of Chinese immigration and exclusion that is embedded in the critical language of ethnic studies. . . . Her book is accessible to a wide readership and written with literary grace and passion.--Pennsylvania Magazine of History and Biography|Well documented, well researched, and highly readable.--New York History|The book, eloquently written with rich original materials, contributes to the existing literature on United States immigration history and Asian American studies, and challenges scholars to see a significant connection between Chinese exclusion and the United States as a gate-keeping nation.--Journal of American Ethnic History|Lee has authored a masterful book, well written and based on extensive research in both English and Chinese sources.--American Historical Review|A compelling, readable narrative.--Law and History Review|Lee's book is an important study on Chinese exclusion and its importance for nation building and US immigration policy. . . . Lee's careful archival work and mastery of relevant literature is evident, and her study is especially poignant because of its tie to her family's history. This is an impressive and sophisticated [book].--Choice|At America's Gates is the strongest, best grounded, and most persuasive assessment of the long historical shadow Chinese exclusion has cast over the development of American immigration policy.--Journal of Social History|In telling this Chinese American story as an American story, Lee defies limiting historiographical categories that too often have narrowly defined scholarship. She thus begins to break down barriers that have separated historians of Chinese America and immigration from American history. In opening a wider conversation among historians as well as with policy makers and the American public, Lee makes her subject especially relevant in the post-September 11 world.--Register of the Kentucky Historical Society|Scholarly substance wrapped up in . . . a well organized and clearly written package . . . The single most useful book on the history of Chinese exclusion. . . . The strongest, best grounded, and most persuasive assessment of the long historical shadow Chinese exclusion has cast over the development of American immigration policy. It deserves a wide readership.--Journal of Social History|The book deepens and integrates our knowledge of the linkages between racist ideologies and national legislation, local politics, and the growth of federal bureaucracies. It is a model of scholarship that will impel topical discussions and policy debates among students and scholars alike.--The International History Review|Makes a very significant contribution to both Asian American history and to U.S. immigration history. The amount of research that went into this book is prodigious. Lee addresses a multiplicity of issues and deftly weaves together several themes that, in the past, had been treated separately.--Sucheng Chan, coeditor of Claiming America: Constructing Chinese American Identities during the Exclusion Era|Extensively researched. . . . [At America's Gate: Chinese Immigration during the Exclusion Era, 1882-1943] is helpful when trying to understand our government's complicated laws regarding immigration: encouraging foreigners to immigrate when their services are needed and excluding them when it seems appropriate.--Journal of the West|Lee opens a new chapter in immigration history with a rich, poetic and careful transnational account of how the 'exclusion period' produced anxiety, division and successful resistance among the Chinese it failed to exclude. She strikingly demonstrates how this drama changed the whole story of immigration restriction.--David Roediger, author of Colored White: Transcending the Racial Past
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Product Details

  • Paperback: 352 pages
  • Publisher: The University of North Carolina Press; First Paperback Edition edition (May 19, 2003)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0807854484
  • ISBN-13: 978-0807854488
  • Product Dimensions: 9.1 x 6.4 x 0.9 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 15.2 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 3.6 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (5 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #490,819 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

More About the Author

Erika Lee is the granddaughter of Chinese immigrants who entered the United States through both Angel Island and Ellis Island. She grew up in the San Francisco Bay Area and received her Ph.D. from the University of California at Berkeley.

She teaches immigration history at the University of Minnesota, where she is also the Rudolph J. Vecoli Chair in Immigration History and Director of the Immigration History Research Center. (www.ihrc.umn.edu)

Passionate about preserving the histories of America's diverse immigrants, Erika gives presentations around the country and has written several articles and two award-winning books. She She is the recipient of the Theodore Saloutos Prize in Immigration Studies, the History book award from the Association of Asian American Studies, the Non-Fiction Asian/Pacific American Award for Literature, and the Western History Association Caughey Prize.

Customer Reviews

3.6 out of 5 stars
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews

12 of 13 people found the following review helpful By igor stavinsky on March 12, 2009
Format: Paperback
This is a wonderful book which tells the story of the west coast immigration journey which involved a controversial path. The Chinese Exclusion Act that was enacted in 1882 and updated periodically until 1943 was passed to restrict Chinese immigration into the United States. That legislation limited immigration on the basis of nationality or race for the first time. During the twentieth century, various other Asian ethnic groups were added to the excluded list to limit immigration from different parts of the Far East.

The Chinese Exclusion Act was repealed by the 1943 Magnuson Act which permitted Chinese nationals already residing in the country to become naturalized citizens. It also allowed a federal quota of 105 Chinese immigrants per year, although significant Chinese immigration did not occur until the passage of the Immigration Act of 1965. I suggest you read further at [...]
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4 of 4 people found the following review helpful By Alexander Dumas on March 3, 2012
Format: Kindle Edition Verified Purchase
Erika Lee argued that the American implementation of exclusion policies towards Chinese played a significant role in transforming the United States from a nation of immigrants to a `gatekeeping nation'. Her book is divided into four parts: Part one deals with the events leading up to the eventual Exclusion Act of 1882 by addressing the public paranoia of invading Chinese `hordes' as well as the attitudes of Immigration Officials towards Chinese; Part two discusses the restrictive nature of the exclusion policies that specifically targeted Chinese as well as how Chinese circumvented these oppressive laws with the aids of lawyers, judges, non-Chinese (that is, European) friends and various others; Part three examines the inefficiency of the exclusion policies as the policies failed to sufficiently curb amount of Chinese entering the United States but rather resulted in corrupt Immigration Officials as well as smugglers creating a `black market' for immigration and thus labelling Chinese as one of the first `illegal' immigrants in the process; Part four analyses the immediate consequences of the Exclusion Act of 1882 by explaining that the exclusion policies resulted in Chinese illegally entering the United States which caused Government Officials to raid Chinese residence and places of business at anytime as well as construing that the vigilant surveillance of Chinese by Government Officials, indeed the general public, created an ambience of fear for Chinese communities. Furthermore, Erika Lee's extensive use of both primary and secondary sources made this book especially compelling. Lee cited hundreds of primary and secondary sources which she integrated beautifully in her book.

Overall, I believe her argument to be just and well formulated.
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1 of 4 people found the following review helpful By Jess on August 3, 2012
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
I got this book for an immigration course I'm taking at college. I'm super excited to read it and I'm very pleased with the condition that the book is in.
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1 of 17 people found the following review helpful By Surgedude1 on February 11, 2012
Format: Paperback
This title isn't terrible. But it sure isn't interested in a deep analysis. The author does no service to her topic with such boring and biased writing. Anther irrelevant snore by an unknown self-proclaimed academic. It seems anything will get published these days. Chinese immigrants of the past deserve better than this weak treatment.
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21 of 80 people found the following review helpful By A. E. Poe on December 5, 2005
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
Erika Lee is a very angry woman. Her diatribe on American immigration policy equates anyone who is concerned about porous borders , the enforcement of laws in a nation of laws, and containment of disease as being a racist. It's hardly fair. And it detracts from her history of immigration legislation and enforcement. Yes, the Chinese Exclusion Act was reprehensible. Yes, we were and are a nation filled with racial prejudices and hatreds.

Immigration restrictions on other ethnic groups, according to Lee, were reflections of a racist policy towards Asians. She admits that the numbers of Asian immigrants was historically small and generally confined to the west coast. She then invests California, and San Francisco in particular, with an enormous amount of political power which was used to restrict immigration throughout the country. Lee is not convincing in her contention that the immigration issue was driven purely by an irrational racist beliefs and concerns over invading Asian hordes. She did not fully explain how the United States Congress, 3,000 miles distant, and generally unaffected by Asian immigration would develop a policy arising out of racism towards a group of which they were barely aware.

Exclusion based upon race is wrong. Looking different, having different cultural traditions, and not speaking the dominant language of English were and are roadblocks for all immigrants, not just the Chinese. Lee is a constant apologist for behaving as an outsider while expecting to be treated as an insider. Blaming national policy decisions on racial attitudes is too simplistic. Lee could have made an argument which addressed the nativistic xenophobia that was prevalent in the Gilded Age which was partly due to the arrival of masses of southern and eastern European immigrants.
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At America's Gates: Chinese Immigration during the Exclusion Era, 1882-1943
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