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Mae Ngai's The Lucky Ones

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The author of “ The Lucky Ones” is very careful to make the fact that the story is not a fairytale clear to the readers. He writes that “ they met, the Chinese boy and the Chinese girl, in San Francisco in the spring of 1875” . This opening statement of Ngai’ s book is in reference to Joseph and Mary Tape that went to America way before the draconian Chinese Exclusion Act of 1882 came into force. The author goes on to emphasize that the two met not in Chinatown but in the “ 12th Ward, out near Van Ness Avenue, which was then at the fringes of the city’ s settlement” (Ngai, pp.

2). Regardless, the high degree of ethnic segregation that Chinese immigrants were met with was a blessing in disguise for the Tape family. It allowed the family to leverage their knowledge beyond the first generation of Chinese immigrants. However, this advantage was at a price; it meant that they continued experiencing the negativity of racial discrimination in the American cities. This discrimination was notwithstanding the fact that they had established themselves in the US. The tape family is however, portrayed as a strong family owing to the manner in which it responded to this racial discrimination through resistance and protest.

In one instance and possibly the hallmark of Chinese American reforms, the family protested the rejection of Mamie Tapes from a public school. The resulting Tape v. Hurley case was well known in Chinese American academic circles. It is however ironical that the family’ s wealth which had been built under the blessing of segregation was being used to fight the same vice (Ngai, pp.

53). Ultimately, the family used its financial wealth and status as a middle class family to bring the case to court. This scenario in the book disregards the notion that assimilation has to be preceded by the phases of exclusion and seclusion successively. In truth, the Tapes’ story asserts that the phases are concurrent and dynamically intertwined even when they appear to be opposite vectors in the experience of the immigrants.

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