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Voices of the Second Wave: Chinese Americans in Seattle

Oral Histories of 35 Chinese Americans who Immigrated 1934 - 1968

In the 1800s, the “first wave” of Chinese immigrants came to the U.S. to search for gold and to build railroads, later forming Chinatowns and working in low-wage jobs in laundries, restaurants, and garment factories. They braved the high seas to earn money to send back home to their families in poor rural areas of southern China. Most spoke Cantonese.

The “second wave” of Chinese immigrants differs markedly from that first wave, and much less has been written about them. After the Japanese invasion of China, and especially after the Communist victory there, many young Chinese students came to the U.S. seeking an education. Men and women, they came from all parts of China and spoke Mandarin, the language of higher education, as well as their regional dialects.

This group of young people included many of “the best and the brightest” of China, graduates of China’s best universities, sons and daughters of its entrepreneurs, doctors, lawyers, and government leaders. Most came to the U.S. for graduate school, and many studied science or engineering, the academic fields most valued back home in China. Their education and skills were badly needed in their homeland, and normally most would have returned home to help modernize China.

But most of the Chinese students who came in the 1940s, 1950s, and 1960s were cut off from the land of their birth, a lost generation. For three decades, they could not communicate with their relatives left behind in China, many of whom suffered under the Communists. Since the U.S. offered attractive opportunities for employment, most stayed and became U.S. citizens. This was a windfall for America, a huge loss for China.

This ground-breaking book, Voice of the Second Wave: Chinese Americans in Seattle, is a compilation of stories from Chinese immigrants who came to the U.S. as part of this “second wave.” It should appeal to Chinese American communities across the country, immigrants and their children, as well as researchers in the field of Chinese-American studies.

Available in paperback for $15.95 plus shipping through amazon.com.

Available in hardback for $22.95 plus shipping through eastwestinsights.com. E-mail dori (at) dorijonesyang (dot) com.

 

 

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