Between 1901 and World War II, up to half of all U.S.-born Chinese Americans relocated to China in search of better lives due to the discrimination they faced in the United States. Charlotte Brooks
tells the story of these emigres in American Exodus: Second-Generation Chinese Americans in China, 1901–1949
(University of California Press, 2019). Initially, Chinese American dual citizens found unprecedented professional opportunities as merchants and government officials in their ancestral homeland. However, shifting political conditions in China and hardening exclusionary policies in the U.S. narrowed their options in a world where they were considered neither Chinese nor American enough to receive the protection or respect of their governments. Faced with these constraints at a time of global depression and war, Chinese Americans made agonizing choices that led them down surprising paths—including, in some cases, as collaborators during the Japanese occupation of China. American Exodus
challenges well-worn mythologies in the U.S. of upward mobility for immigrants, as well as celebratory and nationalist narratives in China about the overseas Chinese.
Ian Shin is assistant professor of History and American Culture at the University of Michigan.