History Department
History Department

Prof. Madeline Y. Hsu edits book of essays from founder of Chinese American history, Him Mark Lai

Wed, March 31, 2010
Prof. Madeline Y. Hsu edits book of essays from founder of Chinese American history, Him Mark Lai
Him Mark Lai

The book is entitled Chinese American Transnational Politics (University of Illinois Press, March 2010).

Lai was born and raised in San Francisco. Although he was trained as a mechanical engineer and worked for the Bechtel Corporation for most of his career, he blazed a trail in the field of Asian American studies.

Long before the field had any academic standing, he amassed an unparalleled body of source material on Chinese America history. Lai drew on his own transnational heritage and Chinese patriotism to explore the global Chinese experience.

In Chinese American Transnational Politics, Lai traces the shadowy history of Chinese leftism and the role of the Kuomintang of China, ruling political party, in influencing affairs in America. With precision and insight, Lai penetrates the overly politicized portrayals of a history shaped by global alliances and enmities and the harsh intolerance of the Cold War era.

The result is a nuanced and singular account of how Chinese politics, migration to the United States, and Sino-U.S. relations were shaped by Chinese and Chinese American groups and organizations.

Lai revised and expanded his writings for more than 30 years as changing political climates allowed for greater acceptance of leftist activities and access to previously confidential documents. Drawing on Chinese- and English-language sources and echoing the strong loyalties and mobility of the activists and idealists he depicts, Hsu believes Lai delivers the most comprehensive treatment of Chinese transnational politics to date.

He was an independent historian and an adjunct professor of Asian American studies at San Francisco State University (SFSU). He co-taught the first university-level class on Chinese American history in 1969 at SFSU. He also taught the same course at the University of California at Berkeley's Ethnic Studies Department in the '70s, though he never held an academic professorship.

Nonetheless, he wrote some very influential works including Becoming Chinese American: A History of Communities and Institutions; Island: Poetry; and History of Chinese Immigrants on Angel Island, 1910-1940 (co-authored with Judy Yung and Genny Lim)—the latter for which he is most well-known.

Lai also co-edited Chinese American Voices: From the Gold Rush to the Present (UC Press, 2006) and wrote History Reclaimed: An Annotated Bibliography of Chinese Language Materials on the Chinese of America (UCLA Asian American Studies Center, 1986). He has had well over a 100 articles that have appeared in various publications.

Related Links:
Prof. Madeline Y. Hsu
Center for Asian American Studies
Chinese American Transnational Politics, University of Illinois Press, March 2010
The Him Mark Lai Digital Archive
The Scholar Who Legitimized the Study of Chinese America from The Chronicle of Higher Education, January 2000

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