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Driven Out: The Forgotten War against Chinese Americans

25 customer reviews
ISBN-13: 978-0520256941
ISBN-10: 0520256948
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Editorial Reviews

From Booklist

Pfaelzer, professor of American studies, reveals one of the most disgraceful chapters in American history--the purging of thousands of Chinese immigrants in the Pacific Northwest and Rocky Mountain region between 1850 and 1906. Drawing on newspaper accounts, diaries, legal pleadings, and photographs, Pfaelzer retells the story of the horrific purge of the Chinese. Testifying in their own words, Chinese businessmen recall being driven out of their shops, while women tell of being forced into prostitution; they were driven from gold mines, orchards, and small towns in the booming West. The Chinese responded with defenses from boycotts to lawsuits asking for reparations, challenges to police harassment, shipments of arms from China, and pressure on the Chinese government to intervene. Pfaelzer also catalogs the racist images of docile and dirty Chinese subject to lynchings, night raids, murder, expulsion, and deportation. She compares the expulsions to those in Nazi Germany, as well as modern Rwanda and Bosnia, and puts the Driven Out campaign into the broader context of American racism. Vanessa Bush
Copyright © American Library Association. All rights reserved --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

From the Inside Flap

"Driven Out is the most comprehensive history of the period, written with a keen eye for the horrifying, heartbreaking, and often uplifting and triumphant details."—Lisa See, author of Snow Flower and the Secret Fan

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Product Details

  • Paperback: 400 pages
  • Publisher: University of California Press (August 1, 2008)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0520256948
  • ISBN-13: 978-0520256941
  • Product Dimensions: 6 x 1.1 x 9 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.4 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.8 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (25 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #149,545 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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82 of 87 people found the following review helpful By Dr. Jonathan Dolhenty on May 30, 2007
Format: Hardcover
"Driven Out: The Forgotten War Against Chinese Americans" is the first book I have ever read to address this particular issue, the "brutal and systematic" treatment accorded the Chinese immigrants to America during the latter half of the nineteenth century and the early part of the twentieth. Oh, yes, I knew that some Chinese laborers came to the American West to work on the railroads during the heydays of their construction. But that is about all I knew. This, of course, is somewhat shameful for me to admit now because one of my majors during my undergraduate days was history (with a specialty in American history to boot!), and I taught American history to junior high school students for seven years early in my teaching career. Moreover, as a requirement for a teaching certificate I had to take a course specifically in Pacific Northwest history (the area where most of the anti-Chinese incidents took place) and at no time was this matter discussed in the textbooks or in class. Whether this unexplored chapter in American history was deliberately overlooked or ignored, I cannot say. But I can say that it was, in my opinion, a disgrace that it was not presented and discussed.

Jean Pfaelzer, who is a professor of English and American studies at the University of Delaware, has written a comprehensive and gripping account of the "ethic cleansing" of the Chinese residing in California and the Pacific Northwest. Since I was born and still live in the Pacific Northwest, this detailed narrative about the barbaric treatment of a group of fellow human beings who either came here voluntarily or were forced to come here to work on the railroads, in the mines, in the fields, and elsewhere, is especially disturbing.
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43 of 47 people found the following review helpful By M. L Lamendola VINE VOICE on June 6, 2007
Format: Hardcover
Let me start out by praising this author. I normally start a review by listing mistakes. As you read my kudos, you will see why I made that exception for this book.


Today, it is nearly unheard of to write a nonfiction book and stay on topic. Nearly all allegedly nonfiction authors contaminate their work with large doses of their personal political opinions. Most of those opinions reveal a myopic understanding of the topic on which the author is opinionating.

Pfaelzer's editorial integrity is especially noteworthy because this book is directly relevant to the hot button political (non)issue of immigration, but the author doesn't impose her political view.

I enjoyed reading a book that breaks the current trend of writing in Pidgin English. Whether such writing is done to obfuscate or done out of ignorance, I don't know. Either way, this common practice of saddling the text with confusing errors in grammar, composition, and word choices is annoying. Pfaelzer is a professor of English (and of East Asian History and of American Studies), so perhaps she felt obligated to break from the herd on this issue.

If this book had errors of fact, I didn't catch them. I'm not sure that this characteristic (free of errors of fact) is normal, either.

What it's about

Driven Out addresses the atrocities committed against Chinese people who were living and working on the American west coast (mostly California) at a particular time. That time was the half-century or so between the post-Civil War reconstruction era and the first part of the Twentieth Century.

The same psychodrama plays out today as then, except today "we" hate Mexicans instead of the Chinese.
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19 of 19 people found the following review helpful By Gail Yu on June 27, 2007
Format: Hardcover
Big thanks to Professor Pfaelzer for her original research about this little known topic. I am a member of the Chinese Reconciliation Project Foundation in Tacoma and her book begins with the 1885 expulsion of the Chinese from Tacoma, gleaned from first-hand accounts in the Library of Congress. More than that, she provides the context of the expulsions and worse anti-Chinese violence up and down the West coast. She also adds the perspective of Chinese women, a viewpoint that has gotten almost no attention from scholars. This book is not only an important contribution to American studies, and Chinese-American history, is is also very readable and full of all the contemporaneous photos she could find. In the middle of the book there is a very useful section listing events by year. Tacoma's Chinese Reconciliation Park will open in September and this book, which coincidentally is published this same year, is the best source to explain why these events must not be forgotten.
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40 of 45 people found the following review helpful By Reviewer on July 24, 2008
Format: Hardcover
...and thank goodness! The efforts to expel by violence and exclude by law the Chinese from joining the great migration of peoples from the "Old World to the "New" seem, from our vantage point in 2008, to have been as unsuccessful as they were vicious. May it ever be so!

I picked this book up because amazon's marvelous computer "recommended" it to me after I reviewed the book "Island", about the INS quarantine barracks on Angel Island in SF Bay. This is a more vivid account of the violent campaign waged after the building of the transcontinental railroad, to drive the Chinese out of rural America and into urban ghettoes, to deny them the rights and opportunities of ordinary citizens, and even to deprive them of life. It's based on, and includes, some powerful first-person narratives, and it reaches well beyond the Bay Area in the agricultural counties of California, Oregon, and Washington.
It also includes vivid accounts of Chinese resistance to ethnic cleansing, from evasion to self-defense to legal activism. These acts of resistance will be news to most readers, including American-born Chinese. They were exciting news to me.

One previous review, by Dr. Dolhenty, which praises the book's even-handedness and gives it five stars, also contains some amazing statements concerning the possibility that such information could fuel an imagined "Blame America" sentiment. The doctor proceeds to justify America, not absolutely but relatively, using the argument that "we" weren't nearly as bad as X, Y, & Z. So no apologies needed! We were only doing what "everyone" did in those days; we just weren't as good at it! What an incredibly infantile self-justification!
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