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Relative HistoriesMediating History in Asian American Family Memoirs$
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Rocío G. Davis

Print publication date: 2010

Print ISBN-13: 9780824834586

Published to Hawaii Scholarship Online: November 2016

DOI: 10.21313/hawaii/9780824834586.001.0001

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The Chinese in America

The Chinese in America

Histories and Spatial Positions

(p.94) Chapter 5 The Chinese in America
Relative Histories

Rocío G. Davis

University of Hawai'i Press

This chapter examines three family memoirs that center on generational stories of Chinese immigrants in America: Maxine Hong Kingston's China Men (1980), Lisa See's On Gold Mountain (1995), and Bruce Edward Hall's Tea That Burns (1998). All three texts tell the personal stories behind the paradigms of the history of Chinese Americans: the arrival of the first wave during the California Gold Rush in the 1850s; the building of the Central Pacific Railways; the fears about Chinese taking jobs away from Caucasian Americans; work in plantations and Chinese laundries; the creation of Chinatowns; the bachelor society; the existence of “paper sons”; anti-miscegenation laws; and the struggles of second-generation children to define their cultural identity in the land of their birth. In the narratives, the writers highlight their commitment to family stories as part of a process of the development of collective memory.

Keywords:   family memoirs, Chinese immigrants, Maxine Hong Kingston, Lisa See, Bruce Edward Hall, Chinese Americans, Chinatown, paper sons, cultural identity, collective memory

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