Sunday, May 09, 2010

Carla's Grandmother: Lum Fong Shee

Angel Island

Some readers might recall a couple of blog posts in which my old UC Berkeley friend Carla Koop makes an appearance. We used to keep in closer touch, but we've both been so busy in the last few years that we've scarcely had time to write . . . as if anyone writes anymore anyway. But yesterday, she sent me an email to update me on her life, and she included a link to a piece that she'd written on her immigrant Chinese grandmother for the Angel Island Immigration Station Foundation. It's really a nice little biography, well-written -- and I say that not just because Carla's an old friend. Here's the introduction, and if this interests you, then click and read all:
The following is a biography of my grandmother, Lum Fong Shee, who travelled from a village in southern China to the United States as a new bride in an arranged marriage. She was 21 years of age when she left, and spent the remainder of her 78 years in California. I call my grandmother's story "Sowing Strength in a Strange Land" because of the personal strength she drew upon, living as an illiterate, non-English speaking woman in a foreign culture and land. Despite her challenges, she raised a large family and achieved business success.

This narrative is based on a series of interviews I conducted with my grandmother between 1990 and 1996. Because my grandmother spoke only Chinese and I speak none, my mother, Frances Koop, acted as translator and full participant in the interviews. Eventually I was able to complete a written oral history that gave my grandmother's experience a more permanent voice. I am grateful to have this opportunity to share her experience as part of the Angel Island Immigration Station Foundation's "Immigrant Voices" project.
I remember when Carla was doing the interviews because she mentioned them in letters to me in Germany between 1990 and 1995. The work has taken some time to come to fruition, but the read is worth the small time invested, especially if you're interested in Chinese immigration to the San Francisco Bay Area and if you like history as biography.

And the site offers other stories, too, as well as plenty of details about Angel Island.

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