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The Lucky Ones: One Family and the Extraordinary Invention of Chinese America Hardcover – September 15, 2010
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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
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Top Customer Reviews
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.
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.Read more ›
Most Recent Customer Reviews
I had to read this book for class. It has a story narrative. I had to write a book response on it. It was easy to get through but some parts were harder to understand. Read morePublished 9 months ago by Marissa Carr
It reads like a novel, but it's pure history too. Professor Ngai takes you into the world of
the first members of the Chinese middle class in America. Read more
I don't understand who "the lucky ones" were: Certainly not the Tape family members individually, or as a whole ... Read morePublished on January 18, 2012 by Anne Salazar
I have taught Chinese ESOL students for a few years now and there are always questions about how the first Chinese immigrants came here. Where did fortune cookies come from? Read morePublished on October 26, 2011 by Lynn Ellingwood
Ngai has assembled a compact and coherent saga of the Chinese immigrants into the United States over the 1800s. Read morePublished on September 26, 2011 by Orville B. Jenkins
I wholeheartily agree with every positive review regarding this excellent book. Well written and well told. A pleasure to read.
Pros: The book! Read more
Many people know of Chinese immigrants coming to work as cheap labor during the construction of the transcontinental railroad but what is their story? What happened after that? Dr. Read morePublished on February 18, 2011 by Tetsu Uma
No question, the family of Jeu Dip (Joseph Tape) and Mary McGladrey Tape was no Joy Luck Club. Whatever their internal family conflicts, the Tapes had plenty of difficulty facing... Read morePublished on February 17, 2011 by Alyssa A. Lappen
As a Chinese American, it is really great to see someone document stories of Asian American families. Read morePublished on January 28, 2011 by Kacheek