The Chinese diaspora, and the diasporic experience, is typically covered country-by-country or perhaps region-by-region, the geography usually determined by what is relevant to a particular group of readers. The narratives of the Chinese in, say, California and London are usually treated separately.
In researching accounts of diasporic Chinese offspring who returned to their parents’ ancestral country, author Patricia Chu learned that she was not alone in the experience of growing up in America with an abstract affinity to an ancestral homeland and community. The bittersweet emotions she had are shared in Asian American literature that depicts migration-related melancholia, contests official histories, and portrays Asian American families as flexible and transpacific.
In the early-1990s, a new area of Shenzhen sprung up almost overnight: er nai cun, or second wives’ village. At that time, businessmen from Hong Kong began to work over the border as the manufacturing industry moved from industrial areas of Kowloon to the Special Economic Zone of Shenzhen. Not only were low wage jobs disappearing in Hong Kong, but Deng Xiaoping promoted capitalism in his 1992 tour of southern China, including a stop in Shenzhen.
Immigration is much in the news. Here is a selection of books we have reviewed, mostly recently, a few from farther back, on the subject: non-fiction, fiction and even some children’s books. Although many discuss Asian immigration to the West, this list is a reminder that the various diasporas are not limited to West; there is even intra-Asia migration.
In her skillful retelling of the history of white workers’ violence against Chinese immigrants and the formulation of laws to first restrict, and then exclude, Chinese laborers from the United States in the mid-late 19th century, Professor Lew-Williams weaves a story of racial discrimination and nativism that continues to resonate today.
The fictional exploration of the social demotion caused by immigration is hardly new, but rarely has it been portrayed with such warmth and urgency as in Kelly Yang’s middle-grade novel Front Desk.
There’s a moment, late in Lillian Li’s debut novel, where one of the main characters shouts in frustration at her current situation and, in particular, at the owner-manager of the restaurant where she works: