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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 case. 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.
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By Frank on 03-18-11
not the panoramic epic I expected
One day I'd like to listen or read a book that effectively educated me about the history of Chinese Americans, or at least entertained me about a fascinating family. This book promises more than it delivers.
While the Tape family has a few moments of interest (most notably the court case requiring that San Francisco educate its Chinese American children), for the most part, this family wasn't ultimately that interesting. There must be many other Chinese clans that would have provided better material.
The fundamental theme in the entire book is that Chinese Americans were systematically discriminated against in the late 19th and early 20th century. This is an extremely important point. However, by the umpteenth prosaic example of how this affected the Tapes and there contemporaries, the impact has lost its edge..
In the end, I think that choosing a different family would have been better, or perhaps by using more than one family, the author could have mined this topic more effectively.
This book is not an epic, but I am sure there is epic material out there regarding the terrible trials and heroic triumphs of the Chinese in America.
On a separate note, I think the narrator is rather dry. I do appreciate the dual pronunciation of the Chinese names, but for the most part, she is kind of dull.
2 of 5 people found this review helpful