Voices in the Wooden House
Angel Island Inscriptions and Immigrant Poetry, 1910-1940
Professor Charles Egan, Associate Professor of Foreign Languages and Literatures at San Francisco State University, has researched the wall inscriptions at the Angel Island Immigration Station for several years, and has identified up to 60 new Chinese poetic inscriptions at present unknown to the public. Miscellaneous Chinese prose inscriptions and up to 40 pictorial carvings have also been found on the walls. Chinese is not the only language represented: inscriptions in Japanese, Korean, Russian, Punjabi and several other languages have been found, deciphered and researched.
While the Chinese were the only group to carve poetry on the walls, other groups wrote poems about the immigrant experience as well — and published them in newspapers. Egan and his research team have reviewed Japanese and Korean newspapers of the 1910-1940 period, and discovered scores of compelling poems by new immigrants describing such topics as Angel Island detention, picture brides, homesickness, impressions of San Francisco and the Central Valley and farm and factory work. Some poems are poignant complaints about the unfair laws and racial bias to which Asian immigrants were subject. (Visit http://aiisf.org/immigrant-voices to read translated stories from past immigrants as well as tales from more contemporary immigrants.)
For this event, Egan will present a selection of the Chinese, Japanese and Korean inscriptions and poems, read excerpts of a Japanese detainee's Angel Island diary, and recount the tragic suicide of a picture bride. Members of the JCCNC's writer's group will also read a few of the Japanese poems.
Co-sponsored by the Angel Island Immigration Station Foundation, JCCNC, Korean Center, Inc., and the National Japanese American Historical Society. Southwest Airlines is the official sponsor of Asia Society's programming on Asian American issues.