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Angel Island: Immigrant Gateway to America [Hardcover]

by Erika Lee, Judy Yung
3.9 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (9 customer reviews)

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Book Description

August 27, 2010 0199734089 978-0199734085
From 1910 to 1940, the Angel Island immigration station in San Francisco served as the processing and detention center for over one million people from around the world. The majority of newcomers came from China and Japan, but there were also immigrants from India, the Philippines, Korea, Russia, Mexico, and over seventy other countries. The full history of these immigrants and their experiences on Angel Island is told for the first time in this landmark book, published to commemorate the immigration station's 100th anniversary.

Based on extensive new research and oral histories, Angel Island: Immigrant Gateway to America examines the great diversity of immigration through Angel Island: Chinese "paper sons," Japanese picture brides, Korean refugee students, South Asian political activists, Russian and Jewish refugees, Mexican families, Filipino workers, and many others. Together, their stories offer a more complete and complicated history of immigration to America than we have ever known.

Like its counterpart on Ellis Island, the immigration station on Angel Island was one of the country's main ports of entry for immigrants in the early twentieth century. But while Ellis Island was mainly a processing center for European immigrants, Angel Island was designed to detain and exclude immigrants from Asia. The immigrant experience on Angel Island-more than any other site-reveals how U.S. immigration policies and their hierarchical treatment of immigrants according to race, ethnicity, class, nationality, and gender played out in daily practices and decisions at the nation's borders with real consequences on immigrant lives and on the country itself.

Angel Island: Immigrant Gateway to America is officially sponsored by the Angel Island Immigration Station.

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Editorial Reviews


"Angel Island skillfully depicts the multilayered interplay of race, nationality, class, gender, American foreign policy priorities, and political sympathies that determined who might enter the United States and who might not.This book is a masterpiece."--Peter Kwong, American Historical Review

"Erika Lee and Judy Yung have written the definitive book on Angel Island. The book is meticulously researched and covers not just the Chinese experience but the experiences of all the people who passed through the immigration station. Lee and Yung have used the personal stories of immigrants to make time and place come alive, reminding us that history is something that happens to real people and their families."--Lisa See, author of On Gold Mountain: The One-Hundred-Year Odyssey of a Chinese-American Family

"With this comprehensive history, Angel Island may now stand alongside Ellis Island as the other iconic gateway to America. Lee and Yung give a thorough and humane look at the immigrants from surprisingly diverse origins who encountered an America both welcoming and unwelcoming on the Pacific coast."--Mae M. Ngai, author of Impossible Subjects: Illegal Aliens and the Making of Modern America

"In this meticulously researched and richly detailed book, Lee and Yung have unlocked Angel Island's deepest secrets and the link between US immigration policy and restrictive codas of race, gender, class. Their spell-binding narrative lets us journey with Anglos and Latinos as well as Asians and myriad others as they attempt to pass through the eye of the Immigration Station needle--with often vastly different results. Deeply relevant to present-day immigration debates, this book is people's history at its best."--Helen Zia, author of Asian American Dreams: The Emergence of an American People

"With scholarly care and a great feel for the stories of those who passed through Angel Island, Erika Lee and Judy Yung have finally given this important historic site its due. This book teases out the complexities of America's immigration laws and their enforcement and in doing so greatly adds to our understanding of the immigrant experience."--Vincent J. Cannato, author of American Passage: The History of Ellis Island

"Reading Angel Island, a gripping new book on America's immigrant history, feels like traveling over familiar territory, except that someone turned the road signs in the opposite direction....More than a superb historical essential document in the on-going debate over American freedom."--California Literary Review

"Lee and Yung offer a kaleidoscope of immigrant portraits that bring history alive, and, in the process, demolish many myths and stereotypes about Angel Island and American immigration in general." -San Francisco Chronicle

About the Author

Erika Lee is Professor of History and Asian American Studies at the University of Minnesota. She is the author of At America's Gates: Chinese Immigration during the Exclusion Era, 1882-1943.
Judy Yung is Professor Emerita of American Studies at the University of California, Santa Cruz. Her books include Island: Poetry and History of Chinese Immigrants on Angel Island and Unbound Feet: A Social History of Chinese Women in San Francisco.

Product Details

  • Hardcover: 432 pages
  • Publisher: Oxford University Press, USA (August 27, 2010)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0199734089
  • ISBN-13: 978-0199734085
  • Product Dimensions: 9.5 x 6.6 x 1.3 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.6 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 3.9 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (9 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #278,053 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Customer Reviews

3.9 out of 5 stars
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews
15 of 17 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Angel Island August 31, 2010
Ellis Island has become a national symbol of America's acceptance of immigrants to our shores from all over the world. It, with the neighboring Statue of Liberty, has become an icon of some of the most benevolent and welcoming characteristics of the persona of the United States. Although Ellis Island was the largest point of entry of immigrants to this country, it was only one of 19 immigration stations.

From 1910 to 1940 over half a million immigrants disembarked on Angel Island in San Francisco harbor, often referred to as the "Ellis Island of the west." But where Ellis Island was largely set up as an efficient mechanism to accept immigrants into the United States, Angel Island primarily functioned as a much less efficient mechanism to keep immigrants out. Ellis Island was primarily a processing center for European immigrants that restricted but did not exclude potential citizens, while Angel Island was the main port of entry for Asians that was intent on legally permissible exclusion.

The contradictory relationship of America with its immigrants has a long history that has yet to be resolved. What the authors make abundantly clear is that the United States has long treated immigrants very differently based on race, nationality, gender and class.

From colonial times through the mid-nineteenth century immigration was encouraged to help settle this newly colonized land. There were dirty and dangerous jobs to build a transportation infrastructure and mine badly needed natural resources that many whites were reluctant to attempt. But when the gold played out, the initial stages of the transcontinental railroad were achieved, and the economy faltered - a racial backlash began to occur.
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5.0 out of 5 stars Comprehensive, Academic, Accessible February 19, 2013
In response to the reviews that state that the subject matter in Angel Island is less expansive than expected and is too data-driven, I personally found this book to be meticulously researched and accessible to academics and non-academics alike. Based on quantitative and qualitative data, Lee and Yung incorporate personal histories they have discovered from oral interviews past and present--supplemented by data found in the national archives--to weave (and make interesting) a true story that frankly chronicles how America, from the top down, strove to keep certain races out through racism and legislation.

About the authors:
Judy Yung, an early pioneer in the field of Asian American Studies (I strongly recommend reading her social history text, Unbound Feet, about Chinese American women in San Francisco), has a gift for storytelling and also for conducting oral histories. Furthermore, she co-authored Island with Genny Lim and Him Mark Lai, the seminal text on Angel Island poetry. I have not read Lee's book, At America's Gates, but the choice of Lee and Yung as the authors of Angel Island reflects their academic work. Both Yung and Lee are direct descendants of Chinese immigrants who entered into the US through Angel Island, so there is an emotional and generational tie between the authors and the text. Additionally, Yung is 2nd generation Chinese American and Lee, 3rd, allowing for a more multifaceted, generational, and ethnic perspective in reading Angel Island.

Onto a review of the book:
Text has been endorsed by the Angel Island Immigration Station Foundation, with proceeds benefiting the foundation, itself.
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3 of 5 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars No California library should be without this! November 19, 2010
Angel Island: Immigrant Gateway to America offers the first comprehensive history of the Angel Island Immigration Station, revealing the stories of numerous immigrants and offering new research based on immigration records, oral histories, and barrack wall inscriptions. Experiences on the island based on this original research provides a fine depth to the story of how Angel Island's immigration policies shaped generations of lives. No California library should be without this!
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2 of 4 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Expected more November 1, 2010
Format:Hardcover|Verified Purchase
Given prior information, I purchased this book with expectation of more coverage of given immigrant groups and was disappointed. It is good as historical record.
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0 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Prompt delivery; good price. December 31, 2013
Format:Hardcover|Verified Purchase
I had not heard of this book before, nor much about Angle Island, but am looking forward to reading it and to incorporating material from it into courses in the future.
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