|Publisher:||W W Norton & Co Inc|
|Publish Date:||Aug 2010|
|Number of Pages:||354|
|Shipping Weight (in pounds):||1.5|
|Product in Inches (L x W x H):||7.0 x 9.75 x 1.25|
|List of Illustrations|
|The "Real" Charlie Chan|
|Paniolo, the Hawaiian Cowboy|
|The Wilders of Waikiki|
|Book 'em, Danno!|
|The See Yup Man|
|Charlie Chan's Pop|
|The Other Canton|
|The House Without a Key|
|Charlie Chan, The Chinaman|
|The Heathen Chinee|
|Charlie Chan, the Chinaman|
|A Meeting of East and West|
|Charlie Chan at the Movies|
|Between the Real and the Reel|
|Rape in Paradise|
|The Black Camel|
|Charlie Chan Carries on|
|Charlie Chan in China|
|Charlie Chan Soldiers On|
|The Fu Manchurian Candidate|
|Will the Real Charlie Chan Please Stand Up?|
|AList of Charlie Chanisms|
|AList of Charlie Chan Films|
Huang (English, Univ. of California, Santa Barbara; Transpacific Imaginations) here gives us a fascinating examination of Charlie Chan that is many books in one. He begins with a study of Chang Apana (1871-1933), the real detective on whom Charlie Chan was based. Apana, who was born in Hawaii and lived in China from age three to ten, policed Honolulu's Chinatown after previous posts as a cowboy and as an officer for the Humane Society.
Huang then turns to Earl Derr Biggers, a Harvard graduate and writer who created the fictitious Chinese American detective Chan. Biggers himself proves to be equally intriguing. Huang also examines the cultural phenomenon of Charlie Chan in films and other media, exploring the detective's place in America's cultural memory. Huang believes there are many layers to the meaning of Biggers's creation: Chan cannot be easily dismissed simply as a product of American racism. Huang's personal reflections are welcome interludes in this most compelling work.
Verdict: This book has broad appeal to readers interested in film history, ethnic and cultural studies, literary biography, and pop culture. Recommended for public and academic libraries.
-Stacy Russo, Chapman Univ. Libs., Orange, CA
(c) Copyright 2010. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.
On a balmy July night in 1904, a wiry figure sauntered alone through the dim alleys of Honolulu’s Chinatown. He strolled up a set of rickety steps and into a smoky gambling den ringing with jeers of card sharks and crapshooters. By the time anyone recognized the infamous bullwhip dangling from his hand, it was too late. Single-handedly, the feared, five-foot-tall Hawaiian cop, Chang Apana, had lined up forty gamblers and marched them down to the police station.
So begins Charlie Chan, Yunte Huang’s absorbing history of the legendary Cantonese detective, born in Hawaii around 1871, who inspired a series of fiction and movie doubles that long defined America’s distorted perceptions of Asians and Asian Americans. In chronicling the real-life story and the fraught narrative of one of Hollywood’s most iconic detectives, Huang has fashioned a historical drama where none was known to exist, creating a work that will, in the words of Jonathan Spence, “permanently change the way we tell this troubled yet gripping story.”
Himself a literary sleuth, Huang has traced Charlie Chan’s evolution from island legend to pop culture icon to vilified, postmodern symbol, ingeniously juxtaposing Apana’s rough-and-tumble career against the larger backdrop of a territorial Hawaii torn apart by virulent racism. Apana’s bravado prompted not only Earl Derr Biggers, a Harvard graduate turned author, to write six Charlie Chan mysteries but also Hollywood to manufacture over forty movies starring a grammatically challenged detective with a knack for turning Oriental wisdom into singsong Chinatown blues.
Examining hundreds of biographical, literary, and cinematic sources, in English and in his native Chinese, Huang has pursued the trail of Charlie Chan since the mid-1990s, searching for clues in places as improbable as Harvard Yard, an Ohio cornfield, a weathered Hawaiian cemetery, and the Shanghai Bund. His efforts to refashion the Charlie Chan legend became a personal mission, as if the answers he sought would reshape his own identity—no longer a top Chinese student but an immigrant American eager to absorb the bewildering history of his adopted homeland.
“With rare personal intensity and capacious intelligence,” Huang has ascribed a starring role to “the honorable detective,” one far more enduring than any of his wisecracking movie parts. Huang presents American history in a way that it has never been told before.
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