Throughout this book of poetry, I appreciated that even though each poem is individual, they are grouped and flow as one, longer story. Put into categories like “the voyage”, “in detention”, and “about westerners”, it gives the reader an idea of just how many people were writing on the walls about their experiences. The poetry that was carved into the walls of Angel Island, San Francisco where many Chinese immigrants were detained is striking, especially with the added effect of photographs and annotated notes.
The craziest part about this time and what was happening was the fact that whether the people on Angel Island spent a few months or a couple of years there, they could still be deported. The families who had come over for a better life were sent back home before they could even reach the mainland U.S. I found it interesting that the quality of the writing varied so much; how many people got a formal education? On the walls, some of the writing was written in calligraphy while some was written as graffiti. The different handwriting allowed historians to further connect the writer to other poems they may have written. I was disappointed to read that poems written mostly by men; whether it was an education issue or they were lost to time, we don’t know, but I feel like only having one gender’s story isn’t a complete narrative.
The poem that I found most striking was #33:
America has power, but not justice.
In prison, we were victimized as if we were guilty.
Given no opportunity to explain, it was really brutal.
I bow my head in reflection, but there is nothing I can do.
Not only is this poem significant to me because of the blatant and obvious disrespect for Chinese immigrants at this time, but also because I still see these words being reflected in today’s immigration policies. While the immigration policies we know today are being targeted towards people coming over the southern border, there are still detention centers and terrors that those people are facing. Chinese immigration seems to be a dark spot in U.S. history because of the very obvious racism occurring… what will people say about immigration during this time in the history books?