Benson Tong, the author of American Paper Son, writes a very informative book about the discrimination faced by Chinese immigrants during the 1900’s but the character would have benefited from sharing more in depth understanding about his experiences transitioning into American culture and the discrimination he faced.
Benson Tong is a history professor at Gallaudet University in Washington D.C. and has authored and edited five books about racial and gender studies. American Paper Son and two of his other books are about the Asian culture. There is little information about Tong’s personal and professional life except a complaint made to the American Historical Association about allegations of plagiarism from a former graduate student. He was accused and found guilty of using and slightly altering multiple paragraphs and phrases from Judy Tz-Chum Wu’s dissertation but press release or public notification was never released about the verdict. His reputation was affected negatively in that he was ultimately denied tenure at Wichita State University where he was a history professor and is now known in the educational community as a plagiarist. However, he was he was still able to find success in the books that were published after the incident and it would not discourage me from reading more of his books.
Published in 2006, American Paper Son is a biography about Mar Ying Wing and his immigration from China to America. He was the primary source for the book but the book also contained one small secondary source, his wife Kim Suey. Despite being the secondary source, she did not want to include much of her own story in the book. As a reader I would like to have heard more about her story coming through Angel Island and struggling to settle into the United States as a female immigrant in a new country. Having Wing as the primary source, and writing in the first person is a good idea because it gives the reader a strong emotional connection to the character and the story. This will keep the reader engaged and invested in their success.
The book is broken up into three parts, his life in China, his journey to the United States and his life in the United States. The story begins with stories of Wing’s childhood and family, growing up in China, before immigrating to America. In 1935, when Wing was thirteen, he used fake documents to illegally immigrate into American by claiming he was the son of his father’s third cousin. This idea was known as “Paper Sons.”
In 1882, the United States passed a Chinese Exclusion Act that stopped the immigration of Chinese people. This act limited Chinese immigration to almost zero and the only Chinese people who were allowed to gain entry into the United States were those who were born in the United States or had father’s who were born in the United States. The Chinese that were determined to come to the United States had very clever ways to gain entry. One of these clever ideas was called “Paper Sons.” “Paper Sons” meant that Chinese men from the United States would falsify documents and claim false sons in order to gain their legal entrance into the United States. Wing was one of these “Paper Sons” and immigrated to the United States under his “Paper” name of Wong Hung Yin. During immigration he was given a naturalized name of Wayne Hung Wong, which he currently uses.
During immigration, Wong, like other Asian immigrants, had to go through Angel Island in San Francisco to be vented. When he was being vented he had to answer questions about his “paper father’s” village, which he had to learn on the boat ride to the United States. Angel Island was like a prison, with substandard living quarters, and must have been very hard and emotional for a foreign teenager who was in unfamiliar territory and in an unfamiliar culture. Especially, in a country that was not pleased to be getting more foreigners. In the book, the author discussed Angel Island very