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Mott Street: A Chinese American Family's Story of Exclusion and Homecoming | Ava Chin

Mott Street: A Chinese American Family's Story of Exclusion and Homecoming | Ava Chin

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"Essential reading for understanding not just Chinese American history but American history--and the American present." --Celeste Ng, #1 bestselling author of Little Fires Everywhere

 

* TIME 100 Must-Read Books of 2023 * San Francisco Chronicle's Favorite Nonfiction * Kirkus Best Nonfiction of 2023 * Library Journal Best Memoir and Biography of 2023 * One of Elle's Best Memoirs of 2023 (So Far) * An ALA Notable Book *

 

"The Angela's Ashes for Chinese Americans." --Miwa Messer, Poured Over podcast

As the only child of a single mother in Queens, Ava Chin found her family's origins to be shrouded in mystery. She had never met her father, and her grandparents' stories didn't match the history she read at school. Mott Street traces Chin's quest to understand her Chinese American family's story. Over decades of painstaking research, she finds not only her father but also the building that provided a refuge for them all.

 

Breaking the silence surrounding her family's past meant confronting the Chinese Exclusion Act of 1882--the first federal law to restrict immigration by race and nationality, barring Chinese immigrants from citizenship for six decades. Chin traces the story of the pioneering family members who emigrated from the Pearl River Delta, crossing an ocean to make their way in the American West of the mid-nineteenth century. She tells of their backbreaking work on the transcontinental railroad and of the brutal racism of frontier towns, then follows their paths to New York City.

 

In New York's Chinatown she discovers a single building on Mott Street where so many of her ancestors would live, begin families, and craft new identities. She follows the men and women who became merchants, "paper son" refugees, activists, and heads of the Chinese tong, piecing together how they bore and resisted the weight of the Exclusion laws. She soon realizes that exclusion is not simply a political condition but also a personal one.

 

Gorgeously written, deeply researched, and tremendously resonant, Mott Street uncovers a legacy of exclusion and resilience that speaks to the American experience, past and present.

 

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