Island

This week’s readings were different from the usual texts we look at. Unlike journals, letters, or stories, Island: Poetry and History of Chinese Immigrants on Angel Island, 1910-1940 is a compilation of poetry pieces written by various Chinese immigrants rather than a singular perspective. Poetry is also very different from journal entries because it focuses on emotion rather than details on events.

These poems reflect a variety of emotions that Chinese immigrants felt when they were detained on Angel Island. Perhaps the most prominent emotion is sadness because many of these poems lament how they are detained despite only wanting to find better conditions. Many of these poems show how people were afraid of coming to the United States only to be forced back home or sent to an island to wait to be sent back. It was upsetting seeing how people expressed deep sadness from being trapped on Angel Island and are still being treated poorly.

However many of these poems express intense anger towards the United States for subjugating people to these conditions and being jailed without proper justice. I noticed how many of these poems express wanting to ruin the Unites States for hurting their people in this form. These poems reflect how the people were being treated poorly despite it being unnecessary and cruel.

Unlike many of our previous readings, these poems show a deeply negative reaction to the experience of immigrating to the United States, specifically about the nation itself. The previous readings look at the negative aspects of immigrating and they often relate to the problems in finding money to live or help their families, but they did not view the whole experience as negative much less the nation. These poems demonstrate how Chinese immigrants were treated worse compared to previous experiences, and they received this treatment from the government specifically rather than the market.

4 thoughts on “Island

  1. I agree with your analysis of the sentiments regarding the immigrant experience in America and the United States in general conveyed in these poems versus that of our previous readings. As you pointed out, the perspectives of our previous readings discussed the various hardships of immigrant life in America, but they still clung to the idea of the “American Dream” and the belief that America represents economic opportunity and individual freedom. Uniquely in these poems, there is a general condemnation of the United States as a whole. They link their hardships directly to the failure of the country instead of separating their experiences from the actions of the country and what it stands for.

  2. I definitely agree with you deep sadness never missed a beat in any of these poems. I also highly noted the thirst for revenge or “ruining” on the United States out of settled anger at the government. This was definitely shocking to me that yes, despite the cruelness, these immigrants were going to go as far as to condemn the U.S. to destruction. I also noted in conjugation to this that the revenge will strike once their mother nation of China becomes strong as she is weak now. I did see a couple of inserts about how China is weak because she gave way to the U.S. financially and was constantly losing as a subordinate to the United States. Still though, I wanted and might have misunderstood given context about why their mother nation of China was weak. I noticed war mentioned in the provinces in China, did that refer to their war with the British at all? Was there a separate war at home in which the Chinese nation was suffering? Or was the “weakness” of their nation only displayed because of the economic and political subordination to the United States? Also, it was never forecasted whether or not the Chinese nation did become stronger or strong enough to inflict the revenge promised by so many mistreated, detained, and deported immigrants, so did it ever reach that point? Was there a criteria that would somehow measure when China would reach that ready point of strength?

    In addition, I definitely agree we see these immigrants reflecting much more on their negative experiences from the government rather than solely the public society, and I think that is really significant when we draw connections to the tension between the Chinese and American governments later on. Nonetheless, we do know there was countless discrimination from societal actors, especially the Irish, and I do believe this was reflected on when we read about the invasions of non-Chinese people in America, attacking Chinese communities and driving them out. Smoke signals were put out to message the danger and need to migrate and escape for those Chinese and this was really powerful. Because of brutal violence and racism, the Chinese could never really settle to find a home or build a community and they constantly had to run and relocate.

  3. Hi! I also agree that this week’s reading was a lot different than what we have been because of how much emotion was involved. In the past weeks I’ve been able to have empathy for the people, but I felt like this week was especially striking. I liked how you connected the previous readings and their struggles with the aspects of Chinese immigration.

  4. (whoops, I don’t think my post from earlier sent because of the captcha)
    I thought you made a really good point when you talked about ‘the poems in this book convey a deeply negative reaction from people immigrating to the United States.’ At some point, you have to wonder if America really is this beacon of hope to immigrants. Or, maybe even if it is, it honestly seems like it had more to do with inherent financial opportunity than anything we as a nation actively did to make them feel invited. What do you think?

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