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Title: Longtime Californ A Documentary Study of an Americ Paperback – Feb 1981

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Paperback, Feb 1981

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17 of 17 people found the following review helpful
Sensitive Portrait of 1970s S.F. Chinatown 1 Oct. 2001
By Bob Newman - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Paperback
In these days of tragedy and uncertainty, it was a pleasure to seek escape in a beautiful presentation of the past. The Nees' work gives a most complete and engrossing portrait of San Francisco's Chinatown in the early 1970s. Through 400 intensive, but mostly informal, interviews, the authors developed a comprehensive picture of the crowded Chinese ghetto in the heart of the city, one of the oldest continuing ghettos in the USA. While most Americans may have a rather tinsely picture of "Chinatown" as a place to eat great food or buy exotic merchandise, this book presents the more, down-home truths about the place. Poverty and unemployment stalked the streets, low wage garment and restaurant industries allowed new immigrants little scope to learn English or skills usable outside Chinatown. Decent housing was scarce, delinquency and gangs were on the rise. The tightly-packed area of a few city blocks had seen the transition from a bachelor society---created by bigoted immigration laws---to a family society when Chinese women were allowed to immigrate and then when general immigration began in 1965. Chinatown politics revolved around the Six Companies' conservative role as bearers of the Kuomintang standard and upholders of the status quo versus factions of younger, Americanized Chinese who wanted to attract and control newly-available government money for minorities and the war on poverty.
Not long ago, I read another book on San Francisco's Chinatown, "The Hatchet Men" by R. Dillon. Though they used some of the same historical documents, the Nees work is far superior in every way to Dillon's as a study of Chinatown because the latter contains no Chinese voice. Listening to so many Chinese and Chinese-Americans from many walks of life, you get a real feel for what life was like at that time, in that place. Dillon looked at Chinatown as an outsider studying a rather exotic place while LONGTIME CALIFORN' emphasizes the common human problems that crop up everywhere that immigrants are crammed into small areas with few resources. The Nees interviewed garment workers, waiters, mothers, students, youth gang members, cooperative organizers, businessmen, old retired bachelors, Christians, housing project residents, and tong members. They identify what made them unique as well as what they had in common with others. Their voices, plus the history and local politics written up in readable style make this a gem of a book.
The "Pantheon Village Series", of which this is a part, was one of the great series in social anthropology of its time (1966-c.1981). I have read a number of them and reviewed some for Amazon.com. I strongly recommend LONGTIME CALIFORN' to anyone who is interested in Chinese society in America, in San Francisco and its social history, or to all those who would just like to read excellent community study. `If you forget the past, you can separate yourself from it'---says one man at the end of the book. In a world full of immigrants and refugees, it is indeed useful to remember that the history of most North American families begins with an immigrant or refugee. This eloquent study of Chinatown can be a way to think about the past for anybody.
1 of 2 people found the following review helpful
chinese american classic 20 July 2011
By Gilbert Hom - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
when it was written this book broke ground taking readers into a community emerging out of years of exclusion and the shadows of maCarthyism. today the book is both a sociological classic as well as a slice of chinese american history.
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