Cover image for Of orphans and warriors : inventing Chinese American culture and identity
Of orphans and warriors : inventing Chinese American culture and identity
Chun, Gloria H., 1961-
Personal Author:
Publication Information:
New Brunswick, N.J. : Rutgers University Press, [2000]

Physical Description:
ix, 198 pages ; 23 cm
Reading Level:
1590 Lexile.

Format :


Call Number
Material Type
Home Location
Item Holds
E184.C5 C56 2000 Adult Non-Fiction Central Closed Stacks

On Order



"We were as American as can be," states Jadin Wong in recalling the days when she used to dance at a San Francisco nightclub during the 1940s. Wong belonged to an all-Chinese chorus line at a time when all East Asians were called "Orientals." In this context, then, what did it mean for Wong, an American-born Chinese, to say that she thought of herself as an "American"? Of Orphans and Warriors explores the social and cultural history of largely urban, American-born Chinese from the 1930s through the 1990s, focusing primarily on those living in California. Chun thus opens a window onto the ways in which these Americans born of Chinese ancestry negotiated their identity over a half century.

Author Notes

Gloria Heyung Chun teaches history at Bard College.

Reviews 1

Choice Review

Chun notes that second generation Chinese Americans from the 1930s to the 1950s were marginalized in their ethnic community and in the American mainstream. Situated between their immigrant parents and US society, they tried to negotiate an identity for themselves as "cultural ambassadors," a bridge between their parents and the larger society. But by the 1960s and '70s, that stance drew attacks from critics such as Frank Chin. He argued that this behavior was only pandering to the Orientalist gaze of white society. As an activist, Chin sought to claim a space for Chinese Americans that was neither Chinese nor mainstream American. He maintained that the second generation had assumed a facade that was fake. The merit of Chun's book is that it brings a much needed historical perspective to this controversy. With an informed eye, she describes the process of Chinese Americans inventing and reinventing their identities according to the historical context. Far from being passive victims of prejudice, Chinese Americans were active agents in trying to define a place for themselves in the US. This is a study that has parallels in Eileen Tamura's Americanization, Acculturation, and Ethnic Identity: The Niesi Generation in Hawaii (CH, Sep'94). All levels. F. Ng; California State University, Fresno

Table of Contents

Acknowledgmentsp. ix
Introductionp. 1
1 "Go West ... to China": Chinese Americans in the 1930sp. 15
2 "Bridging the Gap": Cultural Interpreters of the World War II Erap. 41
3 "To Become Still Better Americans": The Challenge of China Turning Communistp. 71
4 "Claiming America": The Birth of an Asian American Sensibilityp. 97
5 "Punching Our Way Out": Beyond Asian American Identityp. 125
Conclusionp. 155
Notesp. 161
Bibliographyp. 181
Indexp. 189