Mules and Dragons: Popular Culture Images in the Selected Writings of African-American and Chinese-American Women Writers

By Mary E. Young | Go to book overview

Chapter Four
Dragon Ladies, Susie Wongs,
and Passive Dolls

African-American women writers recorded their responses to the popular images that circumscribed and distorted their existence. The stereotypes were created by Euro-American writers and were frequently supported by African-American male writers. Chinese-American women have faced a similar situation: inaccurate images created by the dominant society. These representations, like those of African-American women, were not present in the early literature of the United States but developed much later.

Historian Shih-shan Henry Tsai dates the arrival of the first Chinese in the United States as 1758 in Baltimore.1 In succeeding years a few Chinese entered ports on the East Coast, mainly as skilled tradesmen and servants. Others eventually entered the country and settled primarily on the West Coast. As immigrants had before them, the Chinese came to the "Gold Mountain" seeking a way of life different from and better than the one that they had had in China. Most of these early Chinese in the United States can trace their roots to a small region in Guangdong Province in southern China.

During the nineteenth century Guangdong province experienced tremendous problems: overpopulation, floods, famine, land concentrated in the hands of a few wealthy landlords, domestic revolts, and the Taiping rebellion.2 These problems caused many Chinese to emigrate under penalty of death. Upon arrival in the United States, these early immigrants found problems of a different kind awaiting them. Unfortunately, the image of disease-ridden, opium-using heathens preceded them.

These images were essentially shaped by three groups: traders, diplomats, and missionaries. In the nineteenth century these three groups were

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Mules and Dragons: Popular Culture Images in the Selected Writings of African-American and Chinese-American Women Writers
Table of contents

Table of contents

  • Recent Titles in Contributions in Women's Studies ii
  • Title Page iii
  • Contents vii
  • Preface ix
  • Chapter One "John Chinaman" As "Sambo" 1
  • Notes 19
  • Chapter Three The Female Response: Harriet E. Wilson To Alice Walker 47
  • Chapter Four Dragon Ladies, Susie Wongs, And Passive Dolls 81
  • Chapter Five Sui Sin Far to Amy Tan 109
  • Chapter Six African-Americans And Chinese-Americans 133
  • Selected Bibliography 149
  • Index 155
  • About the Author 158
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