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The Lucky Ones: One Family and the Extraordinary Invention of Chinese America Hardcover – September 15, 2010

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Product Description
If you're Irish American or African American or Eastern European Jewish American, there's a rich literature to give you a sense of your family's arrival-in-America story. Until now, that hasn't been the case for Chinese Americans. From noted historian Mae Ngai, The Lucky Ones uncovers the three-generational saga of the Tape family. It's a sweeping story centered on patriarch Jeu Dip's (Joseph Tape's) self-invention as an immigration broker in post-gold rush, racially explosive San Francisco, and the extraordinary rise it enables. Ngai's portrayal of the Tapes as the first of a brand-new social type--middle-class Chinese Americans, with touring cars, hunting dogs, and society weddings to broadcast it--will astonish. Again and again, Tape family history illuminates American history. Seven-year-old Mamie Tape attempts to integrate California schools, resulting in the landmark 1885 Tape v. Hurley. The family's intimate involvement in the 1904 St. Louis World's Fair reveals how the Chinese American culture brokers essentially invented Chinatown--and so Chinese culture--for American audiences. Finally, Mae Ngai reveals aspects--timely, haunting, and hopeful--of the lasting legacy of the immigrant experience for all Americans.

Photos of the Tepe Family from The Lucky Ones
(Click on Images to Enlarge)

Joseph Tape with his hunting rifle and bird dogs, San Francisco, c. 1880s

The Tape family (Joseph, Emily, Mamie, Frank, Mary), 1884

Mamie with children, Emily and Harold, and sister Emily, Portland, 1912

Ruby Tape, 1912

Gertrude and husband Herbert, Sunol, California, 1913

Gertrude with Florence Park and daughters, Pacific Grove, c. 1915

From Publishers Weekly

A thoroughgoing look at the historical record of early Chinese immigration to San Francisco unearths the heartening story of one rags-to-riches family. Columbia history professor Ngai (Impossible Subjects) characterizes her work as history, situating the union of two young working people in San Francisco in 1875 within a larger frame of Chinese immigration, which had been encouraged by the California Gold Rush of the mid-19th century, attracting impoverished men mostly from the Guangdong Proivince. Jeu Dip, an enterprising drayman who had come over at age 12, and Mary McGladery, an indentured Chinese servant (mui tsai) who had emigrated as an orphan and was then rescued from prostitution at 11 years old, thanks to the Ladies' Protection and Relief Society, both became acculturated English-speakers and ambitious to live among the white middle-class. Despite recent legislation limiting Chinese immigration, and growing anti-Chinese racism due to the resentment from the displacement of the white workforce, Jeu Dip, renamed Joseph Tape, flourished as a deliveryman and broker for new immigrants; Joseph and Mary grew prosperous and even sued to have their daughter Mamie attend the local white public school. Ngai traces their descendants, especially their son, Frank, who was tried for extorting money from new immigrants, and his estranged wife, Ruby, who joined the Women's Army Corps (WAC) during World War II. Ngai fashions a terrifically readable, compelling work about the little-known middle-class in the Chinese immigrant experience.
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.

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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 304 pages
  • Publisher: Houghton Mifflin Harcourt (September 15, 2010)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 9780618651160
  • ISBN-13: 978-0618651160
  • ASIN: 0618651160
  • Product Dimensions: 1 x 6.2 x 9 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.2 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.2 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (24 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #131,646 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Most Helpful Customer Reviews

9 of 9 people found the following review helpful By Bookventures Book Club on August 24, 2010
Format: Hardcover
The Lucky Ones is essentially a historical account of the Chinese Americans in California. The book features one family in particular, the Tapes of Russell Street in San Francisco who were among the first middle class Chinese American families in that area. If you are not familiar with the history of California, Chinese labours came to this state firstly during the gold rush in the 1840's as a cheap, abundant source of labour. However when the gold rush era panned out, large numbers began to come into the state around the 1860's to work on the transcontinental railroad. The fact that their labour was cheap angered the Occidental population and led to discriminatory laws against the Chinese well into the turn of the twentieth century. It is under this climate that the Tapes, Joseph and Mary lived in California.

Ngai has done a great job telling the story of this family. It is not so much analysis as it is a narration of the family's life, their battle against segregation in education and how they retained or in some instances assimilated there culture with that of America. The author used mostly family photos and official documentation to reconstruct their lives, the former can be found throughout the book.

At 304 pages, this book is not a light read and may be mostly suited to history buffs like myself yet the content of the book gives you a story not just about this family but about Chinese (and Japanese) Americans during the late eighteenth and nineteenth century and more importantly the development and growth of one of the most populated states in America, California.
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7 of 8 people found the following review helpful By Amazon Customer VINE VOICE on August 5, 2010
Format: Hardcover Vine Customer Review of Free Product ( What's this? )
Mae Ngai has created a BRILLIANT narrative of one very special Chinese family who dared to be THEMSELVES when discrimination against the Chinese in America was at its very worst.

The narrative begins with Jeu Dip (renamed Joseph Tape), who at the age of 12 immigrated to America (San Francisco), who worked as a "drayman" (horse and cart driver) and then, while working as a milkman, met (and later married) Mary McGladery, a former Chinese servant saved from prostitution at 11 years of age by the local Ladies' Protection and Relief Society.

Joseph and Mary married, and instead of creating a traditional Chinese family, as they knew from their respective childhoods, became gentrified English-speakers who strived to join the white middle-class. Their children, Mamie, Frank, Emily and Gertrude were all brought up by their parents to be members of the white middle class -- Mamie, who was refused entrance to a white school (the teacher stating that if she was admitted then ALL the pigtails will want to come) was undaunted and persisted in getting her education, as did Frank -- with the tutoring help of their mother Mary and a successful lawsuit against the San Francisco Board of Education, by father Joseph.

Joseph, an ambitious businessman, prospered in his trade (still driving a horse and cart, picking up new Chinese immigrants at the docks and transporting them and their luggage), also becoming a broker for Chinese immigrants; his son Frank, following in his father's footsteps, proved to be a little less scrupulous when it came to his trade(s) and his customers. This character fault was to follow Frank throughout his prosperous-yet-troubled life.
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4 of 4 people found the following review helpful By A. Silverstone VINE VOICE on September 17, 2010
Format: Hardcover Vine Customer Review of Free Product ( What's this? )
Mae Ngai uses the story of Joseph and Mary Tape, their children and grandchildren to illustrate the rise of the Chinese American middle class. Joseph and Mary both came to America in the 1860's as children. This was a time when the railroads and the gold rush in California drew many people from China who were seeking a better life. Unfortunately, racism raised its ugly head, and Chinese exclusion laws were passed in 1880, to prevent further immigration. There was much discrimination against the Chinese who lived in California. Children and adults alike had to endure taunting and attacks. It is no wonder then, that the Chinese immigrants often lived isolated in Chinatowns. To contrast this, Joseph Tape, who did quite well financially first hauling luggage and then as an agent for railroad tickets and steamship travel, lived outside of Chinatown in San Francisco and then later in Berkeley. Ngai does a fantastic job telling the story of the Tape family while describing vividly what life was like for Chinese and Chinese-Americans in the end of the 19th century and the first half of the 20th century. The Tapes are particularly important in public education history because Chinese Americans were not allowed to attend public schools (shades of the Southern Jim Crow laws). They brought suit against the California school system and won. Unfortunately, Ngai is limited by the absence of first person narratives (diaries, letters, etc.) of her subject. Although other writers might make an educated guess and write something that flows with the story, Ngai will pose a series of questions about what a member of the family did or didn't do at some point in time. Once or twice this is acceptable, by these uncertainties and questions are too often and disrupt the history of the family. What would be really interesting would have been to have a brief bit at the end describing something about the contemporary descendants of the Tapes.
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