Saturday, September 8, 2007

Driven Out

I'm reading a non-fiction book, Driven Out by Jean Pfaelzer, that documents the roundup and purging of Chinese immigrants in America from 1850-1906.
At nine o'clock on the morning of November 3, 1885, steam whistles blew at the foundries and mills across Tacoma, to announce the start of the purge of all the Chinese people from the town. Saloons closed and police stood by as five hundred men, brandishing clubs and pistols, went from house to house in the downtown Chinese quarter and through the CHinese tenements along the city's wharf. Sensing the storm ahead, earlier in the week, about fine hundred Chinese people had fled from Tacoma. Now the rest were given four hours to be ready to leave.

- Introduction to Driven Out

I took a lot of Chinese history classes at UCLA while I was an undergrad but I've never heard much about the history of Chinese people in the Pacific Northwest and California. I knew about the Chinese Exclusion Act of 1882, the only immigration law passed to exclude a specific ethnic group, but not much else was discussed, even in my modern Chinese history class. This book looks interesting since it has a lot of archival material collected from all over California, Oregon, and Washington, and also first hand accounts from the persecuted Chinese victims.

I'm only half-way through chapter 1 and it already looks like it will be a depressing book, like all Chinese history books I've read, especially those dealing with the Cultural Revolution. :(

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