Poetry & History of Chinese Immigrants
with Judy Yung
Judy Yung, Professor Emeritus of American Studies at the University of California, Santa Cruz and co-editor of the newly published 2nd ed. of Island: Poetry and History of Chinese Immigrants on Angel Island, 1910-1940, discussed new research, poetry and oral histories of Chinese immigrants that are contained in the 2nd Edition of the book about Chinese detained at the Angel Island Immigration Station.
Island, co-authored by Genny Lim, Judy Ying and the late Him Mark Lai, tells these immigrants' stories while underscoring their relevance to contemporary immigration issues. First published in 1980, this updated edition includes a new historical introduction, 150 annotated poems in Chinese and English translation, extensive profiles gleaned through oral histories, and dozens of additional photographs from public archives and family albums.
Fast forward to 2012-2013, Genny Lim and Judy Yung, embarked on a second edition of Island. The expanded edition includes full-stories behind the poems, real names of detainees and pictures used by permission from families. 100 photos were included in the second edition, where there had been just slightly over 20 in the first edition. Additionally, poems were added from the Victoria, British Columbia and Ellis Island Immigration Stations.
Yung described the geography and operations of Angel Island, as well as, the discriminatory detention and intense interrogation practices the Chinese immigrants were subjected to relative to other immigrants from Europe and other parts of Asia. Barracks on Angel Island were unsanitary, overcrowded and unsafe. Food was so bad there were two food riots. The poems carved into the walls were a form of protest.
Angel Island overseers tried to pant over the poems and fill the carvings in with putty. The actions actually backfired as the putty and the paint served as sealant, thus preserving the poems.
Professor Yung also remarked on how the past resembles the present with a broken immigration system. She said that Angel Island should serve as a reminder not to repeat the mistakes of the past.