Sunday, July 19, 2009

A Happy Coincidence

The New York Times today has an article in the Metropolitan section, p. 8, which happens to be quite pertinent to Lisa See's new book Shanghai Girls. (By the way, I am making further progress with the girls as they wend their way south from San Francisco to Los Angeles.) The online version of this article offers even more information and images regarding the Chinese immigrant practice of stowing away cheat books as they sailed to America. It was hoped that these cheat books would give them the right answers to U.S. Customs Service questions. This practice was deemed necessary due to the restrictive nature of the Chinese Exclusion Act of 1882, which only permitted entrance to Chinese immigrants in limited occupations.

Our Shanghai Girls, May and Pearl, have been stowing their cheat book in one of the girl's hats, but The New York Times indicates that many immigrants threw their books overboard before they landed, having already memorized the information. In the case of Chinese immigrant, Chung Fook Wing (below), his cheat book was found in New Jersey in 1941 even though he entered the country in 1932.

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