FROM CANTON TO CALIFORNIA: The Epic of Chinese Immigration by Corinne K. Hoexter

FROM CANTON TO CALIFORNIA: The Epic of Chinese Immigration

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When a teacher friend wished aloud that her Chinese-American pupils could have a hero of the stature of Frederick Douglass, Hoexter was prompted to begin a search through the annals of Chinese immigration. This then begins as a social history of the Chinese sojourners who labored in California minefields and farmyards and helped build the transcontinental railway, and only gradually takes shape as a biography of Ng Poon Chew (known to Americans as Dr. Chew), founder of the first Chinese-language daily in the United States and an influential leader of San Francisco's Chinese community before and during the recovery from the 1906 earthquake. The comparison with Douglass can't be stretched very far--Chew was a moderate who advocated Americanization at the same time that he worked for the rights of Chinese in the US, and who favored first the Reformists working to save the Chinese imperial system and, later, the rise of Chiang Kai-shek. In his own time Chew was often called the ""Chinese Mark Twain,"" which gives a more accurate sense of his style as a lecturer and journalist. Either way, Hoexter's respectful life, highly informative but so heavy on background that it makes for slow going, is unlikely to fire anyone's imagination. It did make us aware of how few Chinese-American individuals have been singled out in the largely superficial material available, and as a substantial effort to fill that gap it merits attention.

Pub Date: Oct. 25th, 1976
Publisher: Four Winds