7 Books About the Chinese Exclusion Act

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From Electric Lit:

p until my early 20s, I had never heard of the Chinese Exclusion Act. I remember taking classes on Mississippi history during my childhood in Oxford, then Texas government, and later the story of the Alamo during my teenage years in Austin. Our history textbooks were heavy and thick, always a pain to take home. Still, for all their pages, they never discussed that period of history when an entire group of people was barred because of the threat they posed to white labor and racial purity. It wasn’t until I took an intro to Asian American studies course in my senior year of college that I was introduced to that significant moment of American history: in 1882, President Chester A. Aurthur signed into law the Chinese Exclusion Act (then known as the Chinese Restriction Act), which banned Chinese laborers from entering the country for ten years.

In my debut novel, Four Treasures of the SkyDaiyu, the 13-year-old narrator, is kidnapped from her home in Zhifu, China and smuggled across the Atlantic Ocean, where she is sold to a brothel in San Francisco. From there, Daiyu journeys to Idaho, hoping to find her way back home. It is not just the physical journey that stands in her way, however—Daiyu is in America at the height of anti-Chinese sentiment, arriving just on the heels of the 1882 Chinese Exclusion Act. It is this pervasive hatred, this revulsion of the “moon-eyed heathen,” that poses the greatest threat to her return—not the wilderness nor the cold of winter.

The Chinese Exclusion Act is not a singular moment of anti-Chinese action in our history. Years before, for example, came the Page Act, which indirectly banned Chinese women from entering, thus contributing to the lopsided demographics of Chinese immigrants for years to come. Decades before that was People v. Hall, which ruled that the Chinese—following precedence from Section 394 of the Act Concerning Civil Cases—were not allowed to testify against white citizens in court, claiming they were “a race of people whom nature has marked as inferior.” When examining the legacy of the Chinese Exclusion Act, we must also consider what came before as well as what came after, and the ugly culmination of violence and legislative escalation that leads us to where we are today. 

Link to the rest at Electric Lit

PG would have been happy to embed an Amazon ad that would allow visitors to examine the first several pages of the author’s new book, but, as PG mentioned earlier, the geniuses at Flatiron Books, the publisher of the book, didn’t have Look Inside working so PG could embed the ebook ad and have it work.

1 thought on “7 Books About the Chinese Exclusion Act”

  1. Sorry for being redundant, but I’m working through my Feedly this morning. Hey, I’m old school and like RSS. Don’t hate me.

    I will note that the “geniuses at Flatiron Books” probably would have been happy to have the Look Inside at Amazon working. It works fine for the hardcover and the preview is available for the audiobook at the Zon. It’s also available for the ebook over at Kobo and Apple.

    I suspect the “geniuses at Amazon” have a glitch and don’t have it working for the ebook. They will get it worked out at their own speed.

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