A Memoir Rooted in China and AmericaWilliam Gee Wong
William Gee Wong was born in Oakland, California’s Chinatown in 1941, the only son of his father, known as Pop. Pop was born in Guangdong Province, China and emigrated to Oakland as a teenager during the Chinese Exclusion era in 1912. He entered the U.S. legally as the “son of a native,” despite having partially false papers. Sons of Chinatown is Wong’s evocative dual memoir of his and his father’s parallel experiences in America.
As Pop grappled with the systemic racism towards Asians during the exclusion era, Wong wistfully depicts Pop’s efforts to establish a family business and build a life for his family in segregated Oakland. As the exclusion law ended in 1943, young William was assimilating into American life and developing his path as a journalist. Writing for the Wall Street Journal, Oakland Tribune, and Asian American periodicals, Wong chronicled Asian American experiences while honoring Chinese American history and identity, but he too faced discrimination.
Sons of Chinatown poignantly weaves these father and son stories together with admiration and righteous anger. Through the mirrored lens of his father, Wong reflects on the hardships Asian Americans endured—and continue to face—with American exceptionalism. Wong’s inspiring memoir provides a personal history that also raises the question of whether America welcomes or repels immigrants.
“By the end of this ultimately uplifting narrative, Wong displays a deeper understanding of his sometimes obdurate, yet determined, perseverant parents…. A forthright account of a family’s success in building a strong, positive Chinese American identity.”— Kirkus Reviews