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Island Paperback – January 1, 1991

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Product Details

  • Paperback: 174 pages
  • Publisher: University of Washington Press; Reprint edition (January 1, 1991)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0295971096
  • ISBN-13: 978-0295971094
  • Product Dimensions: 9 x 7.5 x 0.4 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 12.8 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.8 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (4 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #284,136 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews


"A small, sad and touching book that is yet oddly exhilarating as well, because it is primary history of the highest order." -- New York Times

"The reminiscences are harrowing in their simplicity." --San Francisco Examiner

"This is a book that has long cried out for life in the hearts and memories of those who have survived incarceration on Angel Island.  I rejoice that this record of our country's shame has been retrieved from the poetry written in despair on the walls of the buildings on that island." --Kay Boyle, author of Four Visions of America

"Island is a memorial to the souls of unnamed Chinese men and women who left Cantonese homes because of poverty and hope.  We are indebted to Him Mark Lai, Genny Lim, and Judy Yung for their painstaking record." --Jade Snow Wong, author of Fifth Chinese Daughter

"A compelling glimpse at a chapter of American history that only now is beginning to be written.  Island helps underscore the fact that this country is, as Walt Whitman described, 'a nation of nations.'" -- San Francisco Chronicle

Language Notes

Text: English, Chinese

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Customer Reviews

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Most Helpful Customer Reviews

33 of 33 people found the following review helpful By Giordano Bruno on June 30, 2008
Format: Paperback
No immigrant population has ever been treated as shabbily and violently as the Chinese, who began arriving in large numbers during the California Gold Rush and who were recruited in even larger numbers to build transcontinental railroads, build levees in California, and to supplant African-American cotton pickers in Mississippi. The Chinese were brutalized, excluded, mocked, and TAXED! In 1852, a Foreign Miner's Tax, which accounted for more than half of the tax revenue collected in California between 1850 and 1870, was imposed on Chinese miners. Parallel fears fueled the antagonism against the Chinese: first, that they were unassimilable; second, that they would pollute the bloodlines of the Great Race, the Anglo-Saxon stock, which would seem to imply a measure of assimilation, or else outbreed "us". Laws were passed to exclude Chinese women, and then, in 1882, to exclude all immigration from China. Laws continued to severely curtail Chinese immigration until the 1960s, but exclusion was never 100% effective. The principal loohole was the acknowledged human right of Chinese-Americans to bring their wives and children to "Gold Mountain." The officials charged with overseeing this trickle of migration were invariably convinced that most of it was fraudulent; they were fierce and self-righteous in ferreting out the "paper sons," those illegal immigrants of yesteryear.

From 1910 to 1940, all immigrants arriving in California from China - including many who were en route to Mexico or Cuba - were quarantined in wooden barracks on the hidden side of Angel Island in San Francisco Bay, north of Alcatraz. About 175,000 Chinese, men, women and children, spent from three days to three years in detention on Angel Island, and quite a few of them ended up being shipped home.
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16 of 18 people found the following review helpful By A Customer on April 19, 2000
Format: Paperback
This is a collection of poetry salvaged from the walls of the barracks on Angel Island, where Chinese immigrants were detained between 1910 and 1940. Poems are in both English and Chinese. In addition to the poems, the editors provide an introduction to early Chinese immigration, and there are several pages of quotes from various immigrants, on various subjects such as the voyage to America and their impressions of Westerners. The poetry speaks for itself -- poems of desperation, despair, homesickness, and anger. This is a wonderful collection.
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4 of 4 people found the following review helpful By Walter W. Ko on July 23, 2010
Format: Paperback
This book is an important chapter of American history on Chinese Immigration experience on angel Island 1910-40 after Congress passed 1882 Chinese Exclusion Act, barring immigration based on race. The 1906 San Francisco Earthquake destroyed the records in city hall and many Chinese claimed to be native sons to petition for family members to come over known as "paper son". Angel Island Immigration Station was the facility to process admission by tedious interrogation in fenced barracks. This book collects the 69 poems marked on the walls in bilingual text.
The introduction gave a detail background information so that reader will have a comprehensive understanding of the Chinese in America in that period, subject to discrimination, abuse and violence. Contrary to Ellis Island where Statue of Liberty welcomes immigrants, Chinese arriving the land of free lost their freedom in Angel Island. Facing uncertainty, many waited anxiously for their luck. It is amazing to see this group of Chinese detainees despised and sanctioned as the coolie class from a great Confucius tradition left their poems on the the wall without riot and violence. These poems expressed their frustration, anger, homesick, complaints and unfair treatment in a creative way.
There are sections on interviews for the recollection of the angel Island experiences by detainees, workers and volunteers. The memories brought a cross section on the life in Angel Island. In economic hard times, politicians looked for scapegoat to blame. Police could check, arrest and deport anyone suspicious of being illegal alien. The 110,000 Chinese refused to carry photo identity cards by launching the largest massive civil disobedience in US history in 1892. History repeated itself in Arizona in 2010 with same police authority.
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By Thomas Eng on September 17, 2012
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
I read about this book 10 years ago and was unable to find it. I read Chinese so I do notice the translation is sometimes off, hence the 4 stars.
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