If you’re Irish American or African American or Eastern European Jewish American, there’s a rich literature to give you a sense of your family’s arrival-in-America story. Until now, that hasn’t been the case for Chinese Americans. From noted historian Mae Ngai, The Lucky Ones uncovers the three-generational saga of the Tape family. It’s a sweeping story centered on patriarch Jeu Dip’s (Joseph Tape’s) self-invention as an immigration broker in post–gold rush, racially explosive San Francisco, and the extraordinary rise it enables. Ngai’s portrayal of the Tapes as the first of a brand-new social type—middle-class Chinese Americans, with touring cars, hunting dogs, and society weddings to broadcast it—will astonish. Again and again, Tape family history illuminates American history. Seven-year-old Mamie Tape attempts to integrate California schools, resulting in the landmark 1885 Tape v. Hurley. The family’s intimate involvement in the 1904 St. Louis World’s Fair reveals how the Chinese American culture brokers essentially invented Chinatown—and so Chinese culture—for American audiences. Finally, Mae Ngai reveals aspects—timely, haunting, and hopeful—of the lasting legacy of the immigrant experience for all Americans.
MAE NGAI's Impossible Subjects, on illegal immigration, was called "deeply stimulating" and "highly original" by the Los Angeles Times. It won the AHA Littleton-Griswold Prize for best book on American law and society, and the OAH Frederick Jackson Turner Award for best first book on any topic in American history. Ngai is a professor of history at Columbia University.
“The Lucky Ones is nothing short of a revelation. It insists that we rethink and enlarge our ideas about American immigration. The Tape family story has the texture and the range of great fiction. Mae Ngai has accomplished the admirable task of providing us with a wealth of historical material, while creating a narrative that pulls us thrillingly along in its wake.”
— Mary Gordon, author of Final Payments and Circling My Mother
“Mae Ngai tells a story we haven’t heard, and very much need. Provocative, groundbreaking, and revelatory, The Lucky Ones is a great read, to boot — as pleasurable as it is enlightening."
— Gish Jen, author of Typical American and World and Town