If you’re Irish American or African American or Eastern European Jewish American, there’s a rich literature to give you a sense of your family’s arrival-in-America story. Until now, that hasn’t been the case for Chinese Americans.
From noted historian Mae Ngai, The Lucky Ones uncovers the three-generational saga of the Tape family. It’s a sweeping story centered on patriarch Jeu Dip’s (Joseph Tape’s) self-invention as an immigration broker in postgold rush, racially explosive San Francisco, and the extraordinary rise it enables. Ngai’s portrayal of the Tapes as the first of a brand-new social typemiddle-class Chinese Americans, with touring cars, hunting dogs, and society weddings to broadcast itwill astonish.
Again and again, Tape family history illuminates American history. Seven-year-old Mamie Tape attempts to integrate California schools, resulting in the landmark 1885 Tape v. Hurley. The family’s intimate involvement in the 1904 St. Louis World’s Fair reveals how the Chinese American culture brokers essentially invented Chinatownand so Chinese culturefor American audiences. Finally, Mae Ngai reveals aspectstimely, haunting, and hopefulof the lasting legacy of the immigrant experience for all Americans.
…[a] fresh portrait of Chinese immigrants, America and the past century…Ngai…has chosen to write what she calls a "middle-class" history, and while the Tapes' achievements are hard-won and impressive, they remain tinged with a sense of loss. What is the cost of success, the price of this family's "luck"? Where do they ultimately belong? These are questions Ngai only hints at. But while her imagination strains from time to time, trying to flesh out the picture she has wrested from family photographs, official records and various news clippings, this material still yields an absorbing story.