Bittersweet: A Chinese American Daughter’s Legacy
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The stories offered here—Immigrant History and Mom’s Story—come from Chinese American storyteller, Nancy Wangs longer story Bittersweet: A Chinese American Daughter’s Legacy. In this story, ...

The stories offered here—Immigrant History and Mom’s Story—come from Chinese American storyteller, Nancy Wangs longer story Bittersweet: A Chinese American Daughter’s Legacy. In this story, Wang explores the history of her own family, beginning with the immigration of her great-great-grandparents from China to the United States in the mid-nineteenth century.

Download this lesson plan (free of charge) including corresponding audio story excerpts at:
http://www.racebridgesforschools.com/wp/?p=320

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Bittersweet: A Chinese American Daughter’s Legacy Document Transcript

  • 1. DESCRIPTION This lesson plan uses two stories by Nancy Wang, a dancer, storyteller, playwright, and practicing psychotherapist. Wang studies ethnic dance and has written plays focused on Asian American themes. The stories offered here—“Immigrant History” and “Mom’s Story”—come from her longer story “Bittersweet: A Chinese American Daughter’s Legacy.” In this story, Wang explores the history of her own family, beginning with the immigration of her great-great-grandparents from China to the United States in the mid-nineteenth century. Through this story of her own family history, Wang uncovers the generations of discrimination against Chinese immigrants—both stealth and legally sanctioned—as she explores the relationship in her family, including her own relationship with her mother. This lesson plan offers an accessible way to talk about issues related to immigration, discrimination, and how our histories make us who we are. Teachers can use these stories in a variety of ways: students could read and/or listen to one story and engage in discussion in 15-20 minutes, student groups could divide the stories and then share their learning with one another in 30-45 minutes, or students could explore both stories over two class periods. These stories can be read and/or listened to in class, or students can read and listen to these stories by going to www.racebridgesforschools.com and choosing “Bittersweet: A Chinese American Daughter’s Legacy” under the “Lesson Plans” heading. There they can download the story excerpts in PDF format and listen to the audio excerpts. Make sure students have access to computers that can open PDF and audio files. Recommended Method: Although this will take more time, the best way to complete this lesson plan is to have students read and/or listen to the stories in class and then engage in the lesson plan activities. Note: While the transcripts of the stories follow the main narrative points and meaning of the stories as they are told, there are some differences between the written text and the audio download versions. Storytelling is a living art, and changes from telling to telling. 1 © 2010 RaceBridges For Schools. This lesson plan is part of an initiative for educators called RaceBridges For Schools, which seeks to provide tools for teachers and students to motivate them to build stronger and more inclusive communities. This lesson plan may be freely used, reproduced and distributed for educational purposes as long as this copyright information is displayed intact. Story excerpts copyrighted by Nancy Wang, used with permission. Info: www.racebridgesforschools.com
  • 2. BITTERSWEET: A Chinese American Daughter's Legacy PURPOSE • To expose students to the experience of Chinese immigrants in the 19th century. • To explore the little-known history of exclusion of and discrimination against Chinese immigrants and Chinese Americans during the 19th and 20th centuries. • To examine the connections between family history and personal development. OUTCOMES By the end of this lesson, each student will • Be familiar with the tension among immigrants in California in the 19th and early-20th century. • Understand why marginalized groups might exploit and oppress each other rather than working together to achieve their rights. • Respond to the issues and themes of the stories • Relate their own experiences to the stories MATERIALS • Teacher Instructions • Handout #1A: “Immigrant History” by Nancy Wang • Handout #1B: Discussion Questions for “Immigrant History” • Handout #2A: “Mom’s Story” by Nancy Wang • Handout #2B: Discussion Questions for “Mom’s Story” 2 © 2010 RaceBridges For Schools. This lesson plan is part of an initiative for educators called RaceBridges For Schools, which seeks to provide tools for teachers and students to motivate them to build stronger and more inclusive communities. This lesson plan may be freely used, reproduced and distributed for educational purposes as long as this copyright information is displayed intact. Story excerpts copyrighted by Nancy Wang, used with permission. Info: www.racebridgesforschools.com
  • 3. BITTERSWEET: A Chinese American Daughter's Legacy LESSON PLAN OPTIONS • One-Story Option: Students read and/or listen to one of the stories and respond using the discussion questions, either alone or in groups. Time: 15-45 minutes. • Two-Story Option in Jigsaw Groups: Students are divided into groups; each group reads and/or listens to a different story; groups then share their stories and responses with one another. Time: 30-45 minutes. • All Stories, All Students Option: Every student reads and/or listens to each story and has the opportunity to respond to the stories individually and to discuss the stories in small group and/or large class format. Time: One to two class periods. TEACHER INSTRUCTIONS ONE-STORY OPTION Choose one story for the class to read and/or listen to and decide whether students will work on the story alone, in pairs, or groups. Pair or group them before reading/listening to the story so that they can begin discussing as soon as they finish listening to and/or reading them. Do not let students choose their own partners; either have them count off into random pairs or groups or place them in pairs or groups you believe will be most productive. Introduce your students to the real-life story of Nancy Wang and her family (if you read both stories, you will get a sense of the overall story), including the history of Chinese immigrants in California. Explain that they will have the chance to discuss the story after listening to and/or reading it. Today we’re going to listen to [and/or read] one of the stories from “Bittersweet: A Chinese American Daughter’s Legacy” by Nancy Wang, a Chinese-American woman who grew up in New Orleans and Chicago and comes from a family that arrived in the United States by boat from China in 1850. In her stories, Wang explores both the opportunities that America offered to immigrants and the struggle her ancestors had to be accepted and to make a living first as immigrants and later as second- and third- generation Americans in California, often treated as “less than” the more recent European immigrants. Chinese immigrants and Chinese Americans were subject to discriminatory housing and employment laws and to mob violence. Although we study the Civil Rights movement in the United States, often we lose sight of other ethnic groups and their struggles for fair treatment. Wang’s stories reveal these often overlooked instances of de facto and legal discrimination while also examining her own personal, family history, thus giving us the 3 © 2010 RaceBridges For Schools. This lesson plan is part of an initiative for educators called RaceBridges For Schools, which seeks to provide tools for teachers and students to motivate them to build stronger and more inclusive communities. This lesson plan may be freely used, reproduced and distributed for educational purposes as long as this copyright information is displayed intact. Story excerpts copyrighted by Nancy Wang, used with permission. Info: www.racebridgesforschools.com
  • 4. BITTERSWEET: A Chinese American Daughter's Legacy opportunity to learn about a time that was characterized by both opportunity and exclusion and about the way that one family and one people were both harmed and made stronger by the challenges they faced in a country that promised opportunities for all but too often delivered discrimination to those who were new or looked different than the white European ideal. Today, we will listen to [and/or read] the one of Wang’s stories. After the story, you will have the chance to share respond to the story in writing [or discussion]. Pass out Handouts related to the story you have chosen; make sure students get both the story transcript and the discussion questions. Have students listen to and/or read the story. Then allow students time to review the discussion questions on their own. If they will work alone, students can respond to the discussion questions in writing; you can choose to have them pick the questions that most appeal to them or have them respond to all questions. If they are working together, give students two to three minutes to respond on their own in writing to the questions (they should choose the ones they find most interesting). Then ask students to discuss their answers with their partner or group; allot the time for this based on how long you want to spend on this activity. If there is time, ask a few pairs or groups to share their answers with the class; this can be shortened or expanded depending on the amount of time you have. TWO-STORY OPTION WITH JIGSAW GROUPS Place students in groups of three or four and assign each group one of the stories from “Bittersweet: A Chinese American Daughter’s Legacy.” Introduce the stories to the group using the introduction above and then have each group listen to and/or read their story (students could have been given the homework assignment of listening to their story the night before). Give each group the relevant handouts of the transcript and discussion question for their story. Allow students two to three minutes to respond on their own in writing to the questions (they should choose the ones they find most interesting). Then ask students to discuss their answers with their group; allot the time for this based on how long you want to spend on this activity. The group should then summarize the story, their response to the story, and what they, as a group, take away from the story so that each group member can share his or her experience. Have students pair up so that one student has read/heard and discussed “Immigrant History” and the other student has read/heard and discussed “Mom’s Story.” Have each student share the summary of the story he or she listened to and/or read, his or her response, and his or her “take away” from the group discussion. By the end of the activity, each student should have participated in a “one-story” group and a pair with members who have read and discussed different stories. 4 © 2010 RaceBridges For Schools. This lesson plan is part of an initiative for educators called RaceBridges For Schools, which seeks to provide tools for teachers and students to motivate them to build stronger and more inclusive communities. This lesson plan may be freely used, reproduced and distributed for educational purposes as long as this copyright information is displayed intact. Story excerpts copyrighted by Nancy Wang, used with permission. Info: www.racebridgesforschools.com
  • 5. BITTERSWEET: A Chinese American Daughter's Legacy ALL STORIES, ALL STUDENTS OPTION Follow the instructions for the One-Story Option above, but allow students to listen to and/or read each of the stories. Allow students time for personal reflection and pair sharing or group discussion for each of the stories. After hearing/reading each of the stories, ask groups to share with one another ways in which they have grown or changed in the way they understand differences now that they are teens and how they have had to differentiate themselves from their families and neighborhoods. Then hold a class-wide discussion about the stories and what students today can learn from these stories, addressing topics, such as: 1. What history was new to you? Why do you think you hadn’t learned this history before? 2. Why did the European immigrants gang up on the Chinese, the Mexicans, and the Rumsen Indians? Why didn’t those three groups join together to defend themselves or even “get ahead”? 3. What stories do you know about your own immigrant past? How were your ancestors treated? How did/do you think immigration affected individual members of your family? 4. What immigrant groups or other groups are the “outsiders” in your community now? What does the history of Wang’s family and of Chinese Americans help you understand about the treatment of this/these outsider groups in your community now? LESSON EXTENSION IDEAS 1. Split the class into groups and have them research the following topics and share their research with the class: • The Rumsen Indians; their history in the West; their current status; how and why they helped Chinese immigrants. • The conflict(s) between and among various immigrant groups in the United States during the 19th century. • The Chinese Exclusion Act of 1882, including its effects and how long it was in effect. • How other immigrant groups (Irish, Italian, German, etc.) were treated when they arrived in the U. S. • How were some immigrant groups able to “assimilate” to predominant, white American culture while others remained separate, marginal, even oppressed? Who controlled the “assimilation”? What is gained by “assimilating” to the majority culture? What is lost? • The evolving attitude to “assimilation” and “acculturation” in the United State. What is the difference between “the melting pot” and “the salad bowl” notions of diversity? How and why have our metaphors for our diverse, immigrant nation changed? 5 © 2010 RaceBridges For Schools. This lesson plan is part of an initiative for educators called RaceBridges For Schools, which seeks to provide tools for teachers and students to motivate them to build stronger and more inclusive communities. This lesson plan may be freely used, reproduced and distributed for educational purposes as long as this copyright information is displayed intact. Story excerpts copyrighted by Nancy Wang, used with permission. Info: www.racebridgesforschools.com
  • 6. BITTERSWEET: A Chinese American Daughter's Legacy 2. Have students interview a relative in their family who immigrated to the United States or have them read a first-person account by an immigrant from their ethnic group. Ask students to create an “idea map” or a brainstorm of the ways in which the immigrant experience might have shaped not only that person but all the following generations. 3. Watch the brown-eyed/blue-eyed experiment (see resources below) in class and discuss how prejudice and stereotyping is created and learned rather than innate or natural. 4. Buy a copy of the curriculum Kaleidoscope: Valuing Difference and Creating Inclusion (listed in the resource list below) and teach diversity in a more in-depth way. 5. Watch one of the videos or read one of the books listed in the resource list below and discuss it in class. RESOURCES ABOUT CHINESE IMMIGRATION AND CHINESE AMERICANS “Quock Mui Story - Our Story.” Nancy Wang, great grandniece of Quock Mui © San Francisco, CA March 2009. Many thanks to the following: Mary Lee, granddaughter of Quock Mui, SA, CA; Rod Jone, great grandson of Quock Mui, San Bruno, CA; Gerry Sabado-Low, great grandniece of Quock Mui, Fremont, CA; Tony Creda, Rumsen Nation, Pomona CA BOOKS Bean, Walton. California: An Interpretive History. 3rd ed. New York: McGraw Hill, 1978. Elstob, Winston. Chinatown: A Legend of Old Cannery Row. Illus. Joyce Mary Alexander. Orinda, CA: Condor’s Sky Press, 1965. Lydon, Sandy. Chinese Gold: The Chinese in the Monterey Region. 3rd ed. Aptos, CA: Capitola Book Co., 1985. McDannold, Thomas A. California's Chinese Heritage: A Legacy of Places. Stockton, CA: Heritage West Books, 2000. Pfaelzer, Jean. Driven Out: The Forgotten War Against Chinese Americans. Berkeley, CA: U of California P, 2008. 6 © 2010 RaceBridges For Schools. This lesson plan is part of an initiative for educators called RaceBridges For Schools, which seeks to provide tools for teachers and students to motivate them to build stronger and more inclusive communities. This lesson plan may be freely used, reproduced and distributed for educational purposes as long as this copyright information is displayed intact. Story excerpts copyrighted by Nancy Wang, used with permission. Info: www.racebridgesforschools.com
  • 7. BITTERSWEET: A Chinese American Daughter's Legacy WEB SITES “Chinese Placer Mining.” from the Oakland Museum of California. www.museumca.org/goldrush/fever13-ch.html. “Chinese Americans in the Columbia River Basin.” From the Columbia River Basin Ethnic History Archive, which is supported by multiple universities in the Pacific Northwest. www.vancouver.wsu.edu/crbeha/ca/ca.htm#anti “Manila Galleon.” From the on-line Philippine Encyclopedia. Connects Spanish and Chinese trade to immigration to the Americas. en.wikipilipinas.org/index.php?title=Manila_Galleon “Chinese Immigration and the Chinese in the United States.” From the National Archives. www.archives.gov/locations/finding-aids/chinese-immigration.html “The Chinese Experience in 19th Century America.” From the University of Illinois at Urbana- Champaign. Excellent resource for teachers and students with lesson plans, historical documents, first-person narratives, and in-depth bibliographies. http://teachingresources.atlas.uiuc.edu/chinese_exp/ GENERAL DIVERSITY RESOURCES BOOKS Kivel, Paul. Uprooting Racism: How White People Can Work for Racial Justice. Philadelphia: New Society, 1996. Written primarily for a white audience but useful for people of all backgrounds. Loewen, James W. Lies My Teacher Told Me: Everything Your American History Textbook Got Wrong. New York: Touchstone, 1996. Loewen critiques the way that history has been taught in American classrooms, focusing on its bland, Eurocentric bias. He urges educators to focus on real, diverse stories that make up our history. O’Halloran, Susan. Kaleidoscope: Valuing Difference & Creating Inclusion. Available at www.susanohalloran.com. A two-level curriculum for schools about diversity, race and dealing with difference. O’Halloran approaches diversity, race, and racism in a way that makes an often intimidating subject approachable and even fun. O’Halloran avoids blame and empowers students to uncover their own biases and to recognize institutional racism and to work for both personal and societal change. 7 © 2010 RaceBridges For Schools. This lesson plan is part of an initiative for educators called RaceBridges For Schools, which seeks to provide tools for teachers and students to motivate them to build stronger and more inclusive communities. This lesson plan may be freely used, reproduced and distributed for educational purposes as long as this copyright information is displayed intact. Story excerpts copyrighted by Nancy Wang, used with permission. Info: www.racebridgesforschools.com
  • 8. BITTERSWEET: A Chinese American Daughter's Legacy Tatum, Beverly Daniel. Why Are All the Black Kids Sitting Together in the Cafeteria? And Other Conversations About Race. New York: Basic Books, 1997. Written by a professor of psychology for a diverse audience. Focuses specifically on race, racism, and the construction of racial identity among adolescents. Zinn, Howard. A People’s History of the United States: 1492-Present. New York: HarperCollins, 1995. Zinn presents American history from the perspective of those who do not traditionally write history—women, people of color, working class people, and so forth. VIDEOS Berhaag, Bertram (Producer/Director). The Complete Blue Eyed. Available at www.newsreel.org. This edition contains multiple versions of the "blue-eyed/brown-eyed" experiment that demonstrates how swiftly prejudice affects people. Originally used with grade school students, this exercise has been used with adults with the same results. This edition comes with a facilitator's guide. 93 minutes total; can be watched in shorter segments. Lucasiewicz, M. (Producer). True Colors. Northbrook, IL: MTI Film & Video, 1991. An ABC video with Diane Sawyer that follows two discrimination testers, one black and one white, as they look for jobs and housing and try to buy a car. A good look at institutional racism. 19 minutes. If you would like to learn more about Nancy Wang or engage her to perform at your school, go to http://www.ethnohtec.org. Note to Teachers: The above bolded text can be read out aloud and followed word for word; however, you may want to read over the material a few times so that you are comfortable putting these ideas into your own words, in the way in which you normally talk to your students. 8 © 2010 RaceBridges For Schools. This lesson plan is part of an initiative for educators called RaceBridges For Schools, which seeks to provide tools for teachers and students to motivate them to build stronger and more inclusive communities. This lesson plan may be freely used, reproduced and distributed for educational purposes as long as this copyright information is displayed intact. Story excerpts copyrighted by Nancy Wang, used with permission. Info: www.racebridgesforschools.com
  • 9. BITTERSWEET: A Chinese American Daughter's Legacy Handout #1: BITTERSWEET: IMMIGRANT HISTORY Note: The following is a verbatim transcript of the story that Nancy Wang tells on the audio track for this unit. This text is not written in proper English style or grammar but follows the engaging audio recording of the storyteller. It is meant as a guide, to be read along as you listen to Nancy Wang's story. It is also a guide to the themes of the story for your reference. Enjoy! __________________________________________________________________________ 1850, A hundred and sixty years ago, my Great Great Grandmother So-Mae and my Great Great Grandfather, Quac-Bo, like most of China had heard about the Gold Rush in California, but they had also heard about the anti-Chinese unprovoked violence in California. But China was plagued by famine, earthquakes, floods, droughts, civil unrests; so there was very little to lose leaving China. And so my Great Great Grandparents, So-Mae and Quac-Bo, who were married and just teenagers, with four other teenagers, would take a 30-foot Chunk; a junk boat, a Chinese sail boat across the Pacific from the Delta River region in China all the way to California. Hugs and tears, family charms, a small red altar with incense were given to the teens because who knew when or if they would ever see them again. The voyage to this unknown would be four months, maybe five months at the most if they were lucky; and they were lucky, until they got to the foggy shores of California. There they got caught in a storm; I can imagine the terror as the waves thrashed the boat about, and the wind tore at the sails, and the tide rushed them toward the rocky shore. “Mung mung pull pull, there there a beach! Steer there! There!” But the boat capsized spilling the teens into the rushing waves. Now, only by pure luck and probably the generosity of the Sea Goddess, they missed the rocky shore. They were pulled to dry land on the beach by the Rumsen Indians. They had gone south of San Francisco; passed right by it and crashed into the Carmel Bay at Point Lobos which is right near Monterey, California. And one of the first things they noticed was that in the Bay and in the Pacific Ocean, there were fisher people, so they started the very industry; the fishing industry that Monterey became famous for. 9 © 2010 RaceBridges For Schools. This lesson plan is part of an initiative for educators called RaceBridges For Schools, which seeks to provide tools for teachers and students to motivate them to build stronger and more inclusive communities. This lesson plan may be freely used, reproduced and distributed for educational purposes as long as this copyright information is displayed intact. Story excerpts copyrighted by Nancy Wang, used with permission. Info: www.racebridgesforschools.com
  • 10. BITTERSWEET: A Chinese American Daughter's Legacy They built their own fishing boats, they wove nets and they fished out into the Bay and the sea beyond and they dried that fish, and they sold it to the Chinese miners, the Chinese loggers, the Chinese farmers, up and down California. And they sent hundreds and hundreds of pounds of this salted dry fish back to China, and each year the sales grew and each year the villages grew in size and number; so not only at Point Lobos now, but at Pescadero Beach, at Macabee Beach, and at Point Alones. With the Chinese doing all of this wonderful business, they built the very fish despite the fact that from 1850 through the early 1900’s hatred and anti-Chinese violence was rampant up and down the West Coast; and I’m not just talking about California. There was a cry for extermination or deportation. The Chinese were being murdered, mutilated, robbed, set on fire; they would be rounded up, whole villages were rounded up and marched out of wherever they were for hundreds of miles no matter what the weather and sometimes only with the clothes on their back. They were rounded up by angry mobs of thousands of white men, with clubs and poles, and pipes, and guns. I can hear my Great Great Grandparents now, “Oh, this time to go home; go to China.” “We work so hard, our hands never stop working. We give so much.” “Oh, I know Quac-Bo, I know, but we make good living right now. Everything going to be okay.” But everything wasn’t going to be okay. As the European settlers increased, bringing their own broken heart, hopes and dreams, they began to use their anger by accusing the Chinese of, and then they turned that into anti-Chinese immigration. Not their own immigration, but our immigration; even though, the Chinese were fully employed and the miner’s tax alone which was only levied on the Chinese, was one-fourth. And as the Monterey people began, in numbers and terms of European settlements, they began to be a little bit more personal. Now, we weren’t marched out, so we were a little bit better off than the rest of California because we weren’t marched out, but the Italians did burn down our fishing cannery so they could build their own. The Portuguese rammed their boats into ours over and over so that they ripped our nets, crippling our fishing capabilities. And the very politically savvy, they stirred up hatred and group fury with the slogan “The Chinese must go. The Chinese must go. America is for whites.” But we weren’t marched out. They began to burn our villages, a Chinese man was hung in Monterey for voting, but we weren’t marched out. Who they marched out were the Rumsen Indians, who had been the original inhabitants of the area. And who they marched out were the Mexicans who, the Spanish had deeded their land and their ranches to. 10 © 2010 RaceBridges For Schools. This lesson plan is part of an initiative for educators called RaceBridges For Schools, which seeks to provide tools for teachers and students to motivate them to build stronger and more inclusive communities. This lesson plan may be freely used, reproduced and distributed for educational purposes as long as this copyright information is displayed intact. Story excerpts copyrighted by Nancy Wang, used with permission. Info: www.racebridgesforschools.com
  • 11. BITTERSWEET: A Chinese American Daughter's Legacy They didn’t march us out for some reason. And through all of that, the first generation gave birth to the second generation. And the second generation continued to harvest the gifts of the sea; squid and seaweed. And I say squid because, at one point, the Monterey people began to pass their own laws, encouraged by the European laws; that Chinese could not testify against the white people in courts, they couldn’t own land, and then there was the exclusion act that excluded only the Chinese from immigrating to America. So Monterey began passing their own laws. For example, Chinese not allowed to fish from shore. Chinese not allowed to fish during the day. “Oh, that mean we fish night time, we hang lanterns on top of boat, attract squid, like in old country.” The Europeans hadn’t counted on our stubborn perseverance, our timeless patience, and our ingenuity. So the second generation started to dry that squid, and then within a few years, a new law. Chinese not allowed to dry squid. If they Chinese couldn’t dry the squid, then they couldn’t preserve the squid, and if they couldn’t do that then they couldn’t ship it anywhere. And they thought well, Chinese make no money, no more Chinese. They thought; because by then the third generation began to figure out what next to do. They began to gather all the fish heads, and the fish innards, and the fish tails that the Italian canners had just thrown out onto the beach, and they made fish emulsion; fertilizer. And they began to sell that up and down the California valleys to the farmers, but once again, in time, the Italians burned my Grand Uncle’s fish emulsion factory; and when the locals also burned yet another village that was it. Here we had been in the Monterey area for over 59 years; more than most of the Europe settlers. And there we stood outside the fence that was constructed around our burnt village, so that we could not rebuild, while the white folk were inside the fence, rummaging through all the ashes looking for our treasures to keep for themselves. Well, that was it. We began to disperse, and I tell you, that still today, we are here. We are; I am fifth generation, my children are the sixth generation. And my sibs have grandchildren who are the seventh generation. We are still here and we continue, just like our forefathers to contribute to the success of this country called America. 11 © 2010 RaceBridges For Schools. This lesson plan is part of an initiative for educators called RaceBridges For Schools, which seeks to provide tools for teachers and students to motivate them to build stronger and more inclusive communities. This lesson plan may be freely used, reproduced and distributed for educational purposes as long as this copyright information is displayed intact. Story excerpts copyrighted by Nancy Wang, used with permission. Info: www.racebridgesforschools.com
  • 12. BITTERSWEET: A Chinese American Daughter's Legacy Handout #2: BITTERSWEET: MOM’S STORY Note: The following is a verbatim transcript of the story that Nancy Wang tells on the audio track for this unit. This text is not written in proper English style or grammar but follows the engaging audio recording of the storyteller. It is meant as a guide, to be read along as you listen to Nancy Wang's story. It is also a guide to the themes of the story for your reference. Enjoy! _________________________________________________________________________ “Momma, momma, momma” a universal and sacred sound. And then there’s “Mom”, “Mother”, “Momma”, “Mooom”, “Mom”, also universal and a shared sound with memories. Like when I was ten years old, weaving through crowds on State Street in Chicago, trying to keep up with my mother. If I didn’t keep my eye on her, I’d be lost; and would she even notice? And another time I was walking down the street with my mom to the bus stop, and I was walking around a wooden crate. “Oh, mom, it was a nail! It’s bleeding mom, it’s bleeding.” “Ludenjuna, clumsy! Now look what you’ve done. Now you’re going to have a scar in your leg.” Why was my mother like that? Because she wasn’t always like that although it certainly seemed like it. And not just when I was a child; when she came to live with me she was 91 years old, she had shrunk from five foot two to a compact four foot nine inches, but it did not shrink at all her complaints, and her disapproving scowls. So, what was... why was she like that? I still didn’t understand that, and for six years, it would be “This is not hot enough. This is not cold enough.” It never stopped. And then, in that sixth year, one day it was already dark and my mother was not answering the phone, so I rushed down the stairs, and her whole apartment was dark, and 12 © 2010 RaceBridges For Schools. This lesson plan is part of an initiative for educators called RaceBridges For Schools, which seeks to provide tools for teachers and students to motivate them to build stronger and more inclusive communities. This lesson plan may be freely used, reproduced and distributed for educational purposes as long as this copyright information is displayed intact. Story excerpts copyrighted by Nancy Wang, used with permission. Info: www.racebridgesforschools.com
  • 13. BITTERSWEET: A Chinese American Daughter's Legacy then I saw her standing in the shadows by the ironing board, dazed and confused. So I asked her “What’s wrong?” and she said “Cold. I can’t get warm.” So I made a hot bath for her and when she was warmed up I got her back dressed up and I took her to emergency. And as we were waiting for the Doctor, she sat there staring into space. And I asked her “What are you thinking about, mom?” “Oh, about what a happy childhood I had.” I nearly fell off my chair because all I had heard was how horrible her childhood was in Chicago. And then a smile spread across her face. “When we were young our family went to Paw Paw Lake every summer and we’d all walk out to the middle of the lake and the water would still only be at our waists. And we would collect the frogs and the turtles and have races, and I remember running down to my mom and dad holding hands.” Wow, what had happened? And when we found out that she had had a heart attack and 20 percent of her heart muscle had died, anger and bitterness because after that she was a changed person. She was nice, she was kind, she was soft. She was funny. And she said thank you a lot, which she had never done before. Now, I had heard stories from all these other relatives, but I had never thought about sitting down and asking my mother about her own life. And then she died. I had all these questions, but it was too late. I started going through all her things; her boxes, and papers, and photos and her whole collections of, well, she had collections of antiques and miniatures, and too many Chinese fans, and you name, she had it. And I even found a list of all the things she valued in my father, who she had always complained about my entire life. Who was this woman? So it was like I had a box of puzzles without knowing what the picture was, and I had to examine each puzzle piece and see how it fit and maybe then I would know this woman. Not just my mother, but who this woman was. Well, I had heard stories from my Grandmother, and my Grandmother told me that when she was sixteen she was married to a man; 26 years old, all the way in Chicago, and we were in San Francisco at that time. She would have to marry a stranger and travel all that way with a stranger. All she cared about was, is he kind? Well, it turned out he was kind, and he was handsome, and not only that he was a very very successful merchant in Chicago. And in time, he began in 1905, to have this amazing restaurant called the Mandarin Inn. He didn’t locate it in Chinatown, but he located it in downtown Chicago near the Opera House. It had four floors; the top floor was the kitchen, then the Chinese food, then the American food, and in the bottom basement was the food storage. And he always wore this black tuxedo, white starch 13 © 2010 RaceBridges For Schools. This lesson plan is part of an initiative for educators called RaceBridges For Schools, which seeks to provide tools for teachers and students to motivate them to build stronger and more inclusive communities. This lesson plan may be freely used, reproduced and distributed for educational purposes as long as this copyright information is displayed intact. Story excerpts copyrighted by Nancy Wang, used with permission. Info: www.racebridgesforschools.com
  • 14. BITTERSWEET: A Chinese American Daughter's Legacy shirt, black bowtie and finished off with black patent leather shoes. And he drank and he smoked cigars with all his upper class Euro-American clientele, so that he could charm them back over and over again. And that charm was not wasted on my Grandmother either, because not only did she raise her own seven children, but he convinced her to raise his daughter from a first marriage and three of his nephews. Well, she must have charmed him back because they also raised her four younger sibs when her mother died. Altogether my Grandmother raised 14 children, starting at the age of 17. Well, my Grandfather was very generous with every one; in fact, I saw an old article in the newspaper about my Grandfather saying, that he felt that any upstanding citizen had the right to live anywhere he wanted to no matter what his race. And with the help of newspaper report friends, they started a public relations, and soon my Grandfather moved his entire family out of Chinatown into a very fashionable all white neighborhood in Southside Chicago. It was a mansion; three stories, and is a historical one at that. And now, that’s the kind of background that my mother was born into. She was born in 1911. And she always told me that her mother didn’t like her, because her mother had coughed up blood the entire time she was pregnant with my mother as if it was her fault, she’d say. But my mother was also number two daughter. And in Chinese culture that’s not such a fortunate position; you have your number one son, your number one daughter, but another daughter, mm mm; you’re supposed to have another son. My mother said, well, why else would she treat me this way; I was always the babysitter, and I was the only one to do the chores. Well, she lit up however, when she talked about her dad. She told me that she was the one that ran to the chicken coop every morning to get an egg, so her father could eat it raw. And after every dance class she would run to her father’s restaurant, The Mandarin Inn, which was on the same block and she would dance for him and then order her favorite meal, roast beef. He would sit right next to her, and every one called her roast beef Gladys. She really loved her dad. And then one day, I think, for perfectly good reasons, my Grandfather decided that the entire family should move to China for their cultural education. So they sold their mansion and everything in it. Every one was dispersed in the homes of different friends. They would take the train to the West Coast, visit Monterey family and then off they’d go on a steamer to China. At least dad, certainly he was going to meet them at the train station to say goodbye, but instead that night, the phone rang. “Accident! Restaurant!” Her father was dead and my Grandmother accused her own brother of pushing her husband down the elevator shaft, but my Uncle Eugene said “No, 14 © 2010 RaceBridges For Schools. This lesson plan is part of an initiative for educators called RaceBridges For Schools, which seeks to provide tools for teachers and students to motivate them to build stronger and more inclusive communities. This lesson plan may be freely used, reproduced and distributed for educational purposes as long as this copyright information is displayed intact. Story excerpts copyrighted by Nancy Wang, used with permission. Info: www.racebridgesforschools.com
  • 15. BITTERSWEET: A Chinese American Daughter's Legacy that’s not what happened.” It was raining really hard that day and all homes in Chicago flood, restaurants too. He was downstairs picking up the produce from the water, but the dumbwaiter was stuck and my Grandfather he said was up at the kitchen height pulling on the rope trying to get it unstuck, and then suddenly he plunged to his death. The rope broke? Or was it his patent leather shoes that slipped? Or was it the Tong; the Chinese mafia that pushed him? We’ll never know. It was 1923 and my mother was 12 years old. Now, because now there was limited funds, only my mother and my mother’s older sister were sent back to China for their cultural education. And when they got to Canton, China, they were placed in kindergarten because they didn’t know enough Cantonese. “Ha!” My mother says, “Can you imagine teenagers sitting with kindergarteners? They laughed at us. Didn’t even think we were Chinese.” But they did master Cantonese and when they were old enough they went on to the University in Beijing. And now they had to learn Mandarin. They were always called the Americans, my mother said. Well, this is when my mother must have blossomed because what a thrill it must have been for her to discover what a great athlete she was. She competed for the University in tennis, volleyball, track, baseball, shot put, broad jump. And she, I heard, was one of the top ten athletes in China at the time. A country of billions and she was top ten. She won scores of medals, but I swear her favorite medal was her finger; “See this big knob knuckle here? I was playing volleyball that snapped back, all they did was snap it back up and they put me right back in the game. Oh, they don’t do that today, you get your hurt, they take you right out of the game. Oh but, back then you had to be tough, like me. Tough.” That was her mantra; tough. Well, when she was 26; 14 years on her own in China away from her family, she was called back to Chicago for a family reunion, but she intended on going back to China. Only she met my dad, and that was the end of that plan. My father had just been promoted to Contour General of China, and was assigned to New Orleans. Now, he became very busy, I mean, my mother used to complain that “your father first came to community, then came you kids, and then me.” So while my father was doing all these wonderful things in the community; not only in New Orleans, but then later when we moved to Chicago and continued to do that in Chinatown, my mother was doing everything else. She was the nanny, she was the cook, she was the chauffeur, she was the cook, the recreation director, the medical social worker, she was the bookkeeper for the family. She did everything and while my father was being awarded by the entire city of Chicago, our family didn’t even appreciate my mother. 15 © 2010 RaceBridges For Schools. This lesson plan is part of an initiative for educators called RaceBridges For Schools, which seeks to provide tools for teachers and students to motivate them to build stronger and more inclusive communities. This lesson plan may be freely used, reproduced and distributed for educational purposes as long as this copyright information is displayed intact. Story excerpts copyrighted by Nancy Wang, used with permission. Info: www.racebridgesforschools.com
  • 16. BITTERSWEET: A Chinese American Daughter's Legacy Now, we’ve all heard that behind every great man is a great woman, but recently, a puzzle piece came to me. I was told that behind every great man is a lonely woman. My mother was lonely because going through her things I found photo albums of my mother when she was in China; there were pictures of her laughing with friends, on a horse, on a bicycle, on a camel. She had gone with her friends to Mongolia to convince the Mongolian Prince to not collaborate with the invading Japanese army. My mother was a student activist. Well, now began to understand something about my mother because, you know, this is the thing that really clinched it, I’m going to read it to you. There’s a note I found that my mother wrote. “Today is the last day of 2007 in San Francisco, the birthplace of my mother, Yolkland. Living independently in a first floor apartment has been great as I manage my life as I please. I go to bed whenever I want and I rise whenever I want. I’ll go out and shop at Thrift Town 20th and Mission and look and shop and if I find anything interesting, which I always do. I may go on to the grocery shops, if necessary, nothing like buying something and then my cart gets full. I do enjoy my freedom to do as I wish; all I want is to maintain my independence and mobility.” Independence and mobility like she had had in China. What she had totally given up for my father and for us kids. Independence and mobility. Mom, I wish I could tell her this now; how much I thank her for her life, how much she gave to us even when she was bitter, and that finally how wonderful it was for her to find sweetness in her life. It was; I just want to say, that we never know our mothers, and let’s not wait until it’s too late because now, mom, I am so grateful, and I miss you. 16 © 2010 RaceBridges For Schools. This lesson plan is part of an initiative for educators called RaceBridges For Schools, which seeks to provide tools for teachers and students to motivate them to build stronger and more inclusive communities. This lesson plan may be freely used, reproduced and distributed for educational purposes as long as this copyright information is displayed intact. Story excerpts copyrighted by Nancy Wang, used with permission. Info: www.racebridgesforschools.com
  • 17. BITTERSWEET: A Chinese American Daughter's Legacy Bittersweet: Immigrant History Handout #1A: Discussion Questions Directions After listening to the story, take a minute to read the following questions and write down your reactions. You may not have time to address all the questions; focus on those that grab your attention. Then share your answers with your group. In this story, Wang tells the history of her great-great-grandparents trip to the United States from China on a boat, all alone as teenagers in the mid-19th century. The trip took months and nearly ended in disaster as they were hit by a storm off the coast of California. Once they made it to land, Wang’s ancestors had to contend with another kind of storm: human hatred and discrimination. Luckily, they did receive help from the Rumsen Indians and were so determined to succeed that they came up with inventive ways to circumvent the discriminatory laws and behavior they faced. Questions 1. What made Nancy’s ancestors decide to immigrate to the United States? What were the factors in China, their home country? What were the factors in their adopted country, the United States? How might their experience relate to your own immigrant past? To the experience of immigrants today? 17 © 2010 RaceBridges For Schools. This lesson plan is part of an initiative for educators called RaceBridges For Schools, which seeks to provide tools for teachers and students to motivate them to build stronger and more inclusive communities. This lesson plan may be freely used, reproduced and distributed for educational purposes as long as this copyright information is displayed intact. Story excerpts copyrighted by Nancy Wang, used with permission. Info: www.racebridgesforschools.com
  • 18. BITTERSWEET: A Chinese American Daughter's Legacy 2. Nancy says that Chinese immigrants were called “celestials.” Why were they called that? What image(s) does that evoke for you? How does that term compare with words for immigrants today? 3. List all the examples of anti-Chinese immigrant behavior that Nancy outlines in this story. What surprised you in this list? What reminds you of other acts of discrimination in our past or happening today? 4. How did Nancy’s family respond to these acts of discrimination? What evidence does Nancy provide that her family was able to survive despite all of the obstacles? 5. What did you learn about Chinese immigration and immigrants in this story? 6. How does your family’s own immigrant story compare with the one told here? 18 © 2010 RaceBridges For Schools. This lesson plan is part of an initiative for educators called RaceBridges For Schools, which seeks to provide tools for teachers and students to motivate them to build stronger and more inclusive communities. This lesson plan may be freely used, reproduced and distributed for educational purposes as long as this copyright information is displayed intact. Story excerpts copyrighted by Nancy Wang, used with permission. Info: www.racebridgesforschools.com
  • 19. BITTERSWEET: A Chinese American Daughter's Legacy Bittersweet: Mom’s Story Handout #2A: Discussion Questions Directions After listening to the story, take a minute to read the following questions and write down your reactions. You may not have time to address all the questions; focus on those that grab your attention. Then share your answers with your group. In this story, Wang shares the difficult relationship she had with her mother, focusing on how her mother’s “toughness” and pride in being tough could keep her from being comforting in a more traditional maternal way. But Wang explores the reasons for her mother’s resilience and hard nature, exploring her role as a “#2 daughter” in a large family, the death of her father at a young age, time spent in Chinas as a teenagers, and her self-sacrifice to care for her own children. Questions 1. How does Nancy describe her mother? How does she explain the development of her mother’s “toughness”? 19 © 2010 RaceBridges For Schools. This lesson plan is part of an initiative for educators called RaceBridges For Schools, which seeks to provide tools for teachers and students to motivate them to build stronger and more inclusive communities. This lesson plan may be freely used, reproduced and distributed for educational purposes as long as this copyright information is displayed intact. Story excerpts copyrighted by Nancy Wang, used with permission. Info: www.racebridgesforschools.com
  • 20. BITTERSWEET: A Chinese American Daughter's Legacy 2. How did Nancy’s grandfather overcome discrimination? How did his death affect the family, especially Nancy’s mother? 3. Nancy’s mom was a fourth-generation American yet flourished when she was sent to China for “cultural education.” What are all the reasons you think she might have been so successful there? Where would you be sent for “cultural education”? How do you think you would do? What would be exciting? What would be scary? 4. By the end of the story, Nancy reveals how her opinion of her mother changed during her own adulthood. Why did her opinion of her mother change? What did you learn about her mother that balances out her “toughness”? What do you know about your own parents’ upbringing that might explain some of their traits that challenge you now? 20 © 2010 RaceBridges For Schools. This lesson plan is part of an initiative for educators called RaceBridges For Schools, which seeks to provide tools for teachers and students to motivate them to build stronger and more inclusive communities. This lesson plan may be freely used, reproduced and distributed for educational purposes as long as this copyright information is displayed intact. Story excerpts copyrighted by Nancy Wang, used with permission. Info: www.racebridgesforschools.com