Week 5 Readings

Island is a series of poems written by Chinese immigrants who were detained while and held in a prison while at angel island.  While detained these immigrants where subject to very poor conditions and invasive and unnecessary medical testing. The impacts that this treatment had on the immigrants affected them psychologically and created a divisive attitude within the Chinese community . A primary reason for the Chinese to immigrate to America was because of the poor treatment they were facing in china such as low employment opportunities, excessive taxation, and a lower quality of life than that of America. A prominent theme in several of these poems was injustice. The united states pride itself on being a country of opportunity and having fair and just treatment of everyone yet Chinese along with other minorities within the united states faced unjust treatment and alienation. The Chinese immigrants were imprisoned because Americans felt they were inferior to other American citizens and carried various diseases.

2 thoughts on “Week 5 Readings

  1. I like that you mentioned the invasive medical procedures the Chinese immigrants were forced to undergo as a part of their overall mistreatment by the Americans. It seemed that this procedure played a role in the larger American campaign to emasculate Chinese immigrant men. Because of these procedures the Chinese immigrant men felt great shame and humiliation, along with physical pain. This and the various other forms of mistreatment the prisoners faced contributed to a fostering of anti-American sentiment among the men and fueled strong Chinese nationalist rhetoric later displayed in the poems.

  2. The theme of injustice was also apparent to me, and I agree that it is hypocritical, since the United States claims to be a country where everyone is free and equal. I found the poems that dealt with injustice to be particularly moving, especially poem 33, which states, “America has power, but not justice. In prison, we were victimized as if guilty.” I really appreciated the insight into the minds and emotions of Chinese immigrants as they experienced this injustice and expressed their anger that the poetry provided. We know of past injustices, but getting access to their thoughts and feelings in the moment was very powerful and, I feel, allowed us to gain a greater understanding of what life what like for them while on Angel Island.

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