The Children of Chinatown

Growing Up Chinese American in San Francisco, 1850-1920

By Wendy Rouse

312 pp., 6 x 9, 20 illus., 10 tables, notes, bibl., index

  • Paperback ISBN: 978-0-8078-5973-5
    Published: October 2009
  • E-book EPUB ISBN: 978-0-8078-9858-1
    Published: October 2009
  • E-book PDF ISBN: 979-8-8908-8377-3
    Published: October 2009

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Revealing the untold stories of a pioneer generation of young Chinese Americans, this book places the children and families of early Chinatown in the middle of efforts to combat American policies of exclusion and segregation.

Wendy Jorae challenges long-held notions of early Chinatown as a bachelor community by showing that families--and particularly children--played important roles in its daily life. She explores the wide-ranging images of Chinatown's youth created by competing interests with their own agendas--from anti-immigrant depictions of Chinese children as filthy and culturally inferior to exotic and Orientalized images that catered to the tourist's ideal of Chinatown. All of these representations, Jorae notes, tended to further isolate Chinatown at a time when American-born Chinese children were attempting to define themselves as Chinese American. Facing barriers of immigration exclusion, cultural dislocation, child labor, segregated schooling, crime, and violence, Chinese American children attempted to build a world for themselves on the margins of two cultures. Their story is part of the larger American story of the struggle to overcome racism and realize the ideal of equality.

About the Author

Wendy L. Rouse is an associate professor of history at San Jose State University. Her scholarly research focuses on the history of women and children in the United States during the Progressive-Era.
For more information about Wendy Rouse, visit the Author Page.


"The first comprehensive and detailed study of the history of Chinese American children in a major U.S. community. . . . [This book] will change the way we conceptualize Chinese American history."--American Historical Review

"Illuminates an important, generally overlooked, if not historically invisible, component of a community. . . . The archival research . . . is impressive and solid."--Journal of American History

"[An] intensively researched study. . . . Go[es] beyond statistics to describe the experiences of individuals, a valuable resource for those seeking vibrant examples to enliven their teaching. . . . [Jorae's] attempt to demonstrate the continuing relevance of her topic is laudable, and the book is essential reading for those seeking a more sophisticated understanding of the Chinese American family in U.S. history."--Western Historical Quarterly

"Jorae's efforts to reconstruct children's lived experiences in multiple arenas add an important dimension to the study of the Chinese in San Francisco."--Colleen Fong, California State University, East Bay

"Jorae breaks new ground in Chinese American history with her sustained analysis of children and family life among Chinese immigrants during the exclusion period. Addressing four overlapping parties who each had a stake in using the children of Chinatown for their own agenda, she constructs her analysis with sophistication and solid evidence."--K. Scott Wong, Williams College