Books about "the west," the railroads, and chinese immigration?
May 20, 2019 5:16 AM   Subscribe

I know that those are three topics, but they're also related, and I'm especially interested in books at the intersection. Potential topics beneath the cut!

For one, I want to know what settling the West actually looked like. Basically, what did the world of "westerns" actually look like?

I'm then interested in the time period around the construction of the railroads, and am curious in general about the history of railroads in america.

And lastly, I'm curious about the role of Chinese immigrants in all this. Formation of Chinatowns (like in SF), role in the gold rush, role in the railroads.

And as always, any tangentially related but very good books are welcome. My overall goal is to be able to set stories in the time period that do justice to the time period, and to the role that Chinese immigrants played...if there are any books about immigration in general during that time period, or there are any other key nationalities, open to that as well!
posted by wooh to Society & Culture (7 answers total) 9 users marked this as a favorite
Ghosts of Gold Mountain: The Epic Story of the Chinese Who Built the Transcontinental Railroad, by Gordon H. Chang; its related website (not book, sorry): Chinese Railroad Workers in North America Project; more research materials from that site.
posted by MonkeyToes at 5:33 AM on May 20, 2019

Maxine Hong Kingston's China Men includes stories about her grandfather, an immigrant from China who worked on the railroads. She tends to mix fiction and nonfiction (and since there are a lot of family stories, they aren't exactly things you can verify).
posted by FencingGal at 6:40 AM on May 20, 2019

If you're looking for fiction, Sarah Canary ticks all your boxes perfectly.
posted by EmilyFlew at 6:54 AM on May 20, 2019

There was a post on the blue recently about David McCullough's new book -- one of the replies referenced a couple of books about the transcontinental railroad. I have not read either of them, but here you go: Railroaded and Empire's Tracks.
posted by elmay at 8:47 AM on May 20, 2019 [1 favorite]

^Railroaded is fantastic and I think it’s exactly what you’re looking for. It’s a cynical, funny history of the transcontinental railroads by an esteemed historian, and it touches on Chinese immigration multiple times.
posted by ripley_ at 9:48 AM on May 20, 2019

so much! let me just copy from my bibliography

Hsu, M. (2000). Dreaming of gold, dreaming of home: transnationalism and migration between the United States and South China, 1882-1943. Stanford: Stanford University Press.
Hsu, M. (2015). The good immigrants: how the yellow peril became the model minority. New Jersey: Princeton University Press.

Teng, E. (2013). Eurasian: mixed identities in the United States, China, and Hong Kong, 1842-1943. Berkeley: University of California Press.

Guest, K. J. (2003). God in Chinatown: religion and survival in New York’s evolving immigrant community. New York: New York University Press.

Armentrout Ma, L. E. (1990). Revolutionaries, monarchists, and Chinatowns: Chinese politics in the Americas and the 1911 revolution. Honolulu: University of Hawaii Press.

Sinn, E. (2013). Pacific crossing: California gold, Chinese migration, and the making of Hong Kong. Hong Kong: Hong Kong University Press.

Young, E. (2014). Alien nation: Chinese migration in the Americas from the coolie era through World War II. Chapel Hill N.C.: University of North Carolina Press.

Oyen, M. (2016). The Diplomacy of migration: transnational lives and the making of U.S.-Chinese relations in the Cold War. Ithaca: Cornell University Press.

so much more if you want it. hopefully mine too, one day!
posted by idlethink at 11:15 AM on May 20, 2019 [1 favorite]

On Gold Mountain by Lisa See
posted by Violet Hour at 11:46 AM on May 20, 2019 [2 favorites]

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