The Lucky Ones

One Family and the Extraordinary Invention of Chinese America
The Lucky Ones: One Family and the Extraordinary Invention of Chinese America. Houghton Harcourt. 2010. c.304p. photogs. ISBN 9780618651160. $26. HIST
The entrance of a new immigrant ethnic group into the American middle class is often studied through numbers and statistics; however, Ngai (history, Columbia Univ.; Impossible Subjects: Illegal Aliens and the Making of Modern America) approaches the creation of the Chinese American middle class experience through a three-generation narrative of the Tape Family, beginning with Joseph Tape and Mary McGaldery Tape—or Jeu Dip (in Mandarin Zhao Qia) and Mary, whose Chinese name was never recorded. Their story encapsulates their complex mission to attain the comforts of middle class existence by adopting the culture of the American marketplace—anglicizing their surname, living away from San Francisco's Chinatown and other Chinese, and distancing themselves from the traditional manual labors of immigrants. The Tapes were crusaders of equal rights for Chinese and fought to desegregate the schools, yet their motives were as self-promoting as they were altruistic.
VERDICT Ngai has written a remarkable chronicle of one particular multigenerational family. This scholarly, heavily footnoted book can be read by both laypersons and serious scholars interested in minority American history, social change, and ethnic studies.
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