In popular American literature of the 19th century, Chinese immigrants were often characterized as obeisant, illiterate, and sexless. The truth at once passionate, courageous, beautiful, and heartbreaking could be found scratched into the wooden walls of Angel Island Detention Center. Ellis Island of the West was the first, and sometimes the last, impression hundreds of thousands of Chinese were given of California. On their way to treasure or tragedy, they left behind poetry and songs, some of which were preserved in collections in 1911 and 1915, and recently translated by Marlon K. Hom in his book, Songs of Gold Mountain: I risked a perilous journey to come to the Flowery Flag Nation/ Immigration officers interrogated me/And, just for a slight lapse of memory/I am deported, and imprisoned in this barren mountain. The Center for the Art of Translation marks the 100th anniversary of Angel Islands opening with a special installment of Lit&Lunch. Hom shares Angel Island poetry and Chinatown songs which helped people face the racism, poverty, and promise of the immigrant experience and which today offer us a rare perspective on early San Francisco.
Tue., May 11, 12:30 p.m., 2010