Historian Him Mark Lai passed away at the end of May at the age of 83. Educated as an engineer, Lai taught the first course in Chinese-American history in 1969 and was known as “the dean of Chinese-American studies.” Bi-literate in English and Chinese, he wrote over 100 essays and 10 books, including A History of the Chinese in California, a Syllabus and the sometimes heartbreaking Island: Poetry and History of Chinese Immigrants on Angel Island, 1910-1940, a translation of poetry written by Chinese immigrants found scratched on the walls of the detention barracks there.
Being Asian-American is a funny thing. A lot of people talk about its “in-between-ness.” Then there are those who don’t seem to get that where we’re really “from from” is right here in America. Lai’s work, which included saving documents, newspapers, and letters from trash heaps and dumpsters and archiving them, was devoted to showing just that–how we got here, stayed here, and made “here” our home.
Leave a Reply
You must be logged in to post a comment.