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Beyond the Book: Background information when reading Shanghai Girls

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Shanghai Girls

A Novel

by Lisa See

Shanghai Girls
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  • First Published:
    May 2009, 336 pages
    Paperback:
    Feb 2010, 336 pages

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Book Reviewed by:
Kim Kovacs

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Beyond the Book

The Angel Island Immigration Station

In Shanghai Girls, Pearl and May are incarcerated at the Angel Island Immigration Station after fleeing war-torn China. Angel Island was the first stop for most Chinese entering the United States during this period; 175,000 were processed there during its thirty years of operation.

Chinese immigration to the United States began in the mid-1800s as a result of the California Gold Rush. Although initially welcomed, or at least tolerated, an economic downturn in the 1870s created resentment as the immigrants willingness to work for low wages was viewed as depriving others of gainful employment. This led to a series of immigration laws targeting Asians, beginning with the Chinese Exclusion Act of 1882, which banned all Chinese from entering the United States with the exception of merchants, clergy, diplomats, teachers, students, and wives and children of US citizens.

The 1906 earthquake and fire in San Francisco created a ...

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