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Oral history interview conducted by Gregory Ruf
June 29, 1993
Call number: 1994.007.01
RUF: … for the Chinatown History Museum and the Brooklyn Historical SocietyProject on Sunset Park. Ah, the interviewer is Gregory Ruf, the date is June 29, 1993. The interview is being conducted at the Sunset Park branch of the Brooklyn Public Library. [Name redacted for privacy] has requested that her name not be released for public exhibitions, or used in that way, nor should any photographs or video images be made of her. OK, ahm, could you start by introducing yourself?
ANONYMOUS: Okay. My name is [redacted for privacy], and I have been working inthe Sunset Park Library for almost a year by now. And I'm here as a librarian, and--
RUF: When were you born?
ANONYMOUS: I was born in October of 1964. At that point the Cultural Revolution1:00was not started yet, so my childhood -- I was born in Beijing, and I think I had a very happy childhood, and even though the political situation over there -- everybody knows -- but as still, I'm the first daughter of the family, and my parents are both well-educated, and I -- they -- think my education was so important. It's so important. I think I was taught to read poems, as all the other Chinese kids did before, and recite them in front of people, and…
RUF: Literary poems, or Revolutionary poems?
ANONYMOUS: Literary poems, and Revolutionary poems, too, of course. In the yearthat I was two years old the Cultural Revolution started, and of course there 2:00were a lot of politically-led movements in 1970s, but I was still in elementary school. So to me, of course I have very clear memories of those things, but it's not directly affecting me, but it did to my family, grandparents and my parents, too.
RUF: Could you tell me a little bit about your family? About your parents,grandparents or ancestors? How far back your own genealogical memory goes?
ANONYMOUS: My father, he's from Shandong Province, and his parents, on myfather's side, they owned lands and houses, and my father always told me, and my grandmother, they had small stores in the town that sold the traditional Chinese paintings and books and stuff like that. But everything was bombed after the Japanese invaded that town. 3:00
RUF: What town was that?
ANONYMOUS: It was Tamir Tsingtao, a town near by. I've been to Tsingtao a coupleof times. It's a beautiful place. But that was in the 1980's, the early 1980's. On my mother's side, they were the Chin family, from Ching. And her ancestors, or course, were from [unintelligible], like the Northeastern.
RUF: Was she Han? Were they Han or Manchu?
ANONYMOUS: They're Mai, pure Mai. And my grandparents' parents, they wereworking in the palace, the servant-kind of jobs. I'm not sure what they were, but I know there's certain family traditions, Igidid, something like that. 4:00
RUF: That would be your grandparents or your great-grandparents?
ANONYMOUS: Great-grandparents. Early in this century, actually. I learned veryinteresting lessons, my grandfather always told me those stories. And he's a very intelligent man. My grandfather on my mother's side, when the Japanese -- after World War II broke out, he went to Chung Ching, Shang Hai, like a lot of artists and students did before, and he and my grandmother met over in Chung Ching. And my mother was born over there.
RUF: Was he a student at that time?
ANONYMOUS: They were working for some kind group for [unintelligible].
RUF: I see. And what was your mother doing?
ANONYMOUS: My mother was just born at that point.5:00
RUF: I meant your grandmother.
ANONYMOUS: She was an actress. Actually she still is, in China. Of course she'sretired, but she does it freelance.
RUF: And where was she from, her family?
ANONYMOUS: Her family, I think, were originally from Tsingtao, somewhere aroundthere. I'm not so sure. His father spoke Japanese so fluently, and was teaching… I don't know if you know Chan Dao Fun, have you ever heard of this Japanese? I'm sure you know it in English. We pronounce it in Chinese, and English is different. So I don't know it. She was in "The Last Emperor," did you see the film? She's one of the women spies who worked with the Japanese? She was a very little girl, and she was studying in this school where my grandma's father was teaching, something like -- from the Chin and Japanese, in the 1920's 6:00and 1930's, that was when it was took place.
RUF: So you father's family was from Shan Do, around the area of Tsingtao. Andyour mother's family -- your mother's mother was also from Shan Do.
ANONYMOUS: I don't know if she was born there, but they left Shan Do when theywere very young, when they were very young. My mother's mother, she was studying in Beijing in elementary school, even. So they moved over the Beijing, or "Beiping", as they called at that point, as they called it a long time ago.
RUF: Do you have any memories of stories they would tell you about therelocation to Chung Ching?
ANONYMOUS: That's just a small war.
RUF: How did they meet?
ANONYMOUS: They met in Woo Han, and I don't know how they met but they were both7:00very like -- one was 17, one 19 years old, when they were met. On my mother's side. On my father's side, it was a more traditional marriage.
RUF: Was it arranged?
ANONYMOUS: It must have been. I image, even though I've never asked and theynever told me. I imagine so. Because on my mother's side, both my grandparents were very modernized, educated. On my father's side, they were kind of traditional.
RUF: Did your father have many brothers and sisters?
ANONYMOUS: Yeah, I have two aunties and one uncle.
RUF: On your father's side.
ANONYMOUS: On my father's side. And two aunties on my mother's side.
RUF: Are they also in China?
ANONYMOUS: Yeah. They are all still in China. Just because of family background,8:00after the Communists took over China there were a lot of happenings in the families. And --- how do you say -- just like a lot of other Chinese people. There's nothing really so special about it, but a great number of people were persecuted in this political change.
RUF: Were they beaten? Were they attacked physically?
ANONYMOUS: First of all, your property was always taken away. That's the firstthing. And then your rights were taken away, too. Like two of my aunties and uncles from my father's side were not able to go to college. My father went to university a little bit earlier, at that point it was not that tight, they were allowed. If your father was a landlord or a capitalist, whatever, you were still able to go to higher education. But after like 1955 I guess they stopped that, they said, "If you want to go to college, have a better chance, what your father 9:00is doing is first things first." And on my mother's side, too, because both my grandparents were in Chung Ching for ten years. For ten years. My mother, when they came back to Beijing she was ten years old, or maybe 11 or 12. But anyway, they stayed there at least ten years in World War II.
RUF: So your mother was born in Sechuan Province?
ANONYMOUS: Yes, in my mother's name there is a Chuan in her name. And there werea lot of stories. My grandfather told me about when my mother was young, when the bombing came. The people were hiding in the undergrounds, with accidents, and stuff like that. And there was one place they always hiding, they told me, when the bombing sign came on, a red lantern, I believe, that my grandfather 10:00told us. One place they were always hiding, because they were reluctant to go to the underground because once it collapsed, there were a thousand people dead, buried underground. Sometimes that did happen. So that's why they usually didn't really go to the underground. But one time there was very serious bombing, and they thought, "This time we have to go." They went to the place they were always hiding, and there was a big bomb crater.
RUF: They were hiding in the crater that had been created by an earlier bomb?
ANONYMOUS: No. The place they were always hiding later became a crater. If theydidn't go this time, I wouldn't exist today.
RUF: What a terror.
ANONYMOUS: Yeah. So in World War II a lot of Chinese people stayed alive justlike that, they carried their very simple belongings, and didn't believe in 11:00having a formal home. They had two, but they were all bombed, so what was the point to get another one? And furniture and everything, all bombed. So they just kept the very important stuff in a very small suitcase, and some very simple belongings.
RUF: Does your mother have any memories of what it was like to live in ChunChing as a child?
ANONYMOUS: Sure, because she lived there until she was ten years old.
RUF: Did she share those with you?
ANONYMOUS: I think most of the stories I've heard are from my grandfather. Hepassed away three years ago. And my grandmother, she's still very good.
RUF: Is she living in Beijing?
ANONYMOUS: Yeah, she's living in Beijing. She does freelance, some miniseries onTV and stuff like that. So she has a pretty happy life. For her, I think that's 12:00the better place for her, because at her age she needs friends, she needs people to talk to, and over here it's lonely. There are a lot of old people complaining, even American old people. If you don't know the language, you can't even really understand TV, what will happen to foreigners?
RUF: Does your mother have brothers and sisters?
ANONYMOUS: I have two aunts. One lives in Beijing and one lives in Ju Hai, near Canton.
RUF: What are they doing?
ANONYMOUS: Teaching. They're both teaching.
RUF: So your mother went back to Beijing when she was about ten years old, or Ishould say "Went to Beijing."
ANONYMOUS: Went back to, I would say.
RUF: And your father, how did he get to Beijing?
ANONYMOUS: I think he went to school, he did the same junior high school I wentto later.
RUF: Where was that?
ANONYMOUS: In Beijing.13:00
RUF: Which number?
ANONYMOUS: Thirty-five. Do you know 150?
RUF: No, but I know 19.
ANONYMOUS: I went to school in Shitontree. And later we moved to Hai Din, in theearly 1980's, late 1970's. I guess my grandfather was doing business or something in Beijing, and then they both moved. That was, I don't know the year. Early 50's, I guess.
RUF: What kind of business?
ANONYMOUS: I don't really know. My grandfather, later on, after the CulturalRevolution, he was forced to go back to Shan Do. I didn't know what my grandparents were doing until the time my grandmother was dying. I'd never seen my father cry before. And then this time I saw he was crying, and I knew something had happened, and then he told me grandmother had passed away. Afterwards I listened to some conversations between him and my aunt, some things 14:00about family background, family history. Then I started to know what category I was in. But I was so innocent, so young, I didn't know those things. Of course, in the 1970's, when I went to elementary school, it was children, still children but the political background is still involved in -- there are certain activities, and they still consider what kind of family you're from, what kind of class, so to speak, you're representing. It's a tragedy, it's really a tragedy in China.
RUF: Did you personally, yourself, have difficulties as a schoolgirl?
ANONYMOUS: Actually, I don't think so. Fortunately, the teachers I had before, Ithink they had pretty fair hearts. Also, I don't think I'm the only one who is in that certain situation. I guess there were other kids, too. But I don't 15:00really feel that I was against it, or isolated -- not really. And plus, in 1976, when the Gang of Four was thrown out, by that point I was only 12 years old. So it was nothing, really. And then afterwards it was open policies, I got a chance and went to university, and I got a chance to do a lot of other things.
RUF: Before we get on to that, let me ask you if you know how your mother andfather met? …in Beijing?
ANONYMOUS: Yeah, they were neighbors.
RUF: Oh really? Aaah. And they were living in what part of Beijing?
ANONYMOUS: Shi Chan Chu.
RUF: Oh, I see, in the west part of the city. And what was your father doing atthat time?
ANONYMOUS: They both are college students. Yeah, but my father went to college16:00in Shi An Jo Dah. But they still kept contact. Because they were -- my mother is always joking with my father, saying, "When I met you, you weren't as high as I was." But at that point they were nothing, but not grown up.
RUF: How old were they when they met each other?
ANONYMOUS: 14, 15. But they weren't like girlfriend and boyfriend. I guessbecause they were neighbors, you always can see each other on the street.
RUF: Oh, wow! So your father went, ah, after the revolution, he was able to finda job, to find work, despite his class label?
ANONYMOUS: He graduated m 1960, 61, something like that, when the governmentwould arrange a job for you. He stayed there ever since, and he changed to another job in the 1980's. As you know, changing a job is a big thing in China, 17:00it's not like here. "Okay, I stop today," and then you leave.
RUF: What did he do first?
ANONYMOUS: He studied engineering and cryogenics, like very low temperature.That's why I know this word, otherwise I wouldn't know it. So he studied meteorological instruments, and some part of really low temperature cryogenics, like bio, something like that.
RUF: And later he changed jobs?
ANONYMOUS: He changed agency, not jobs.
RUF: So he was still in the same career, basically. He was a technician, ascientist, or a teacher?
ANONYMOUS: He was a senior engineer, before he left the country. And my motherstudied linguistics, and she's working for the National Institute, and she had 18:00teaching. Before the open policy allowed foreign students to come over, she was teaching a lot of minorities. She even went to Tibet for half a year, to train school teachers.
RUF: She was teaching Han Chinese?
ANONYMOUS: Han Chinese. And writing and language, just Chinese language.
RUF: What does she remember of Tibet? What was that like?
ANONYMOUS: It was very poor, and very religious. And… I think that's the most,talking about Tibet after she came back. She came back after -- not too long after she left, there was a big earthquake, in 1976. Have you ever heard of it, in 1976, the Tong Shan earthquake. Three months after she left, there was this big earthquake, I remember the telegraph and everything. I have one sister--she was checking how these two girls and her husband were doing here? But there was 19:00no serious damage in my family.
RUF: How long did she stay in Tibet?
ANONYMOUS: Only six months. That's policy, because that high longitude, youcan't stay too long. I was very proud of her, because you have to go through all kinds of physical examinations, to go those places, because it's too high. The water was boiling only at 80 degrees centigrade. It's very hard, I think.
RUF: She lived in Lhasa? Or in the countryside?
ANONYMOUS: First, I think their central base is in Lhasa, but then they have togo to different counties. Have you ever been to Tibet?
RUF: No, I've never been there. That's really something. So she came back and20:00returned to the Nationality Institute?
ANONYMOUS: Yes, she has been there for like 30 years or something. Before sheleft she received a certificate for serving for 30 years, she was a professor. As a professor in China, I think you know this if not better than me, at least the same as me --
RUF: They don't have very high salaries.
ANONYMOUS: No. The one thing I really admire in the Chinese intellectuals, isthat they have a high standard of their mental resources. They can sacrifice a lot of things for their children to go to school, and they educate and teach their children the values and stuff like that. I really appreciate that.
RUF: You said you have a sister. Younger or older?
ANONYMOUS: Younger. She's studying in Pennsylvania now, accounting. She's just starting.21:00
RUF: You left China when?
ANONYMOUS: I left China in 1987.
RUF: Who made the decision, in your family, to emigrate?
ANONYMOUS: Before, my father was working in Canada for two years. I think thiswas -- at least, he came here and of course he went to meetings and conferences here. I think this is a very important concept for him to let me come by myself. Such far away places, just a girl, I was 22, it was really hard. Also, lots of my friends, they came earlier than me, they're older, or my parents' friends' daughters and sons. It was my personal decision. 22:00
RUF: So you were 22 when you came. Did you come -- was it on an immigrant visa?A student visa?
ANONYMOUS: A student visa.
RUF: What school were you at?
ANONYMOUS: Clarion. Have you ever heard of it? Near Pittsburgh.
RUF: And how did you find that, your first time in the States?
ANONYMOUS: Peterson's guide. The College Guide. Of course the main thing I waslooking for was lower tuition.
RUF: How expensive was that for you?
ANONYMOUS: I forgot what the expense was for the whole year. But for onesemester it was $1,200 or $1,300. It was okay.
RUF: That was for tuition.
ANONYMOUS: For one semester. It was fine, and then later I got a scholarship, soit was much better.
RUF: And what did you study there?
ANONYMOUS: Library sciences. Even though I know this is a job where you nevermake a lot of money. But you know, as you start in a foreign country, I think 23:00this is a pretty good start. And you learn the culture, you learn the language. I've learned a lot of other things that if I'd taken another job, I wouldn't have learn it over there.
RUF: Did you speak English when you came here?
ANONYMOUS: I passed TOEFL, as a lot of other students here. I can speak, but Iwas afraid of answering the telephone when I just came here, as a lot of other people are. A half year later, I think I felt much more comfortable with conversations and stuff.
RUF: When you first came, what were some of the most difficult things you found?
ANONYMOUS: Homesick. I was young. I'd never left Beijing, I had never left myparents. And my parents had always taken care of us so well, me and my sister. And I'd never lived a really hardship life, even though the family background. I think that much affected them, and they tried to cover it up when I was young, so I didn't know it was there, and I didn't know why grandmother was sent to the 24:00like so-called "labor camp," the gan shiao, to be reeducated. I don't know why grandma from my father's side can't come to Beijing when was wanted her to come. I didn't know why, about other things. Maybe I -- I had the questions and never really looked for the answers, even though I know that I don't know why.
RUF: When did you understanding come? When did you finally realize what theanswers were to those questions?
ANONYMOUS: As I've grown up, and I see the change of China. Because in 1976there was a turning point of China, and then I went to high school, after 1976, and then went to college and everything and gradually realized what was going on. Actually, the big change in China gave me the answer. I learned a lot of 25:00things through this, why they didn't do this earlier, why they started this after they closed the door for 35, 40 years.
RUF: When you came to Pennsylvania, what did you do to try and keep yourself incontact with China, to deal with your homesickness? How did you handle that?
ANONYMOUS: Writing letters every week. My parents sent me letters every week.The first thing I look at when I get home is the mailbox. I was appreciative of the mailman so much at that point. We got big snows over there, and I still see them there, sending mail, going around, I had a kind of appreciation from the bottom of my heart. And also, very rarely a telephone call. Maybe only [unintelligible], otherwise it's too expensive. 26:00
RUF: Were there Chinese newspapers available to you there? Or -- any books?
ANONYMOUS: Not really. You are struggling with something else. You don't careabout papers anymore, once you get in a new country, you want to get to know the language a little bit better, you want to… At the beginning -- my first class was a course called "Introduction to Research." I didn't know what the homework was for the next day, even though I was there. I didn't really understand spoken English and my comprehension was not that great at that point. So I was struggling for something else, so I didn't really care about papers. Of course, there was friendship, and I think we had around 25 Chinese at that point. And then we would get together weekends, go to school at the same time, and maybe rent the same house and share. It was a kind of loneliness, but I was young. I 27:00didn't think about it too much. You know, so -- it was okay.
RUF: When you first came to the States, what were some of your first impressionsof America?
ANONYMOUS: It's very different from lots of other people, because I went to asmall town. It was night, it was winter -- January. No, it was November. It was so cold and there was snow, and in West Pennsylvania the roads zigzag, zigzag. I didn't really know where I was going. I stopped in New York for a night, and of course I didn't get a chance to look around, and New York was such a dangerous 28:00place, you know, as people always tell you, even now, when we go on vacation somewhere, "You're living in New York? You must be so brave!" And, you don't have to be that brave. And the next day I went out to Pittsburgh, and then I went by airplane, a small one, to Franklin, near Clarion. I didn't know if somebody could pick me up at Pittsburgh, I wouldn't have to take this small airplane -- you could see the meters over the pilot, there were only six -- from the wall to here, it was that small. Oh my God, kinda -- so scary, and the turbulence -- we went to Franklin, a small airport. And at the school, every 29:00year they have people come here and pick up the students, the international students. They took us to Clarion, the road was zigzag, and it was so cold in the snow, and I don't know what my feeling was. I don't know what I was thinking. When I got there, a very nice lady told me, "We have some Chinese students here." And she gave me one phone number, and I called up and he was from Beijing, too. And apparently he said, "I'll drive over there. We have other new students, too. And we'll see if we can find you a place to live." You know that's the first thing, and --
RUF: How about the food? A lot of people have told me they had difficultiesadjusting to food. Did you have similar problems?
ANONYMOUS: If I'd been in New York, it wouldn't have been a problem. I was inPennsylvania, and at home my mom cooked, and I knew some, but not that great. 30:00And I was stuck eating noodles for two weeks in Pennsylvania. I got to sick of it, and of course other things, too. American food, now I really like some of American food, but at that point --
RUF: Like what?
ANONYMOUS: I like Italian food.
RUF: More noodles.
ANONYMOUS: I like lasagna, parmesan. Are you Italian?
RUF: No, but I love Italian food too! Ooh!
ANONYMOUS: And my friend took me to Italian restaurants, Scallopina and stufflike that. And I like pastas, too. And spaghetti, too. But at that point, I didn't know what to eat. Just, a, make something, it's not Chinese food and not American food. I cooked one dish, the same dish, for another two weeks and got sick of it. And eventually, now, I can cook a very good dinner now. Chinese style. But at that point I didn't know, I wasn't trained to do those things 31:00before I left home. I liked American supermarkets, at that point.
RUF: So tell me, after you graduated, what did you do next? Did you come to New York?
ANONYMOUS: Yeah, I came to New York. Because for one thing, Pennsylvania iscloser to the Northeast, and I had friends, schoolmates, who got jobs in New York. Also, with a lot of fear, because I didn't know what would happen in New York, such a dangerous place, they always told me. But a decision is a decision, and I came to New York and then three weeks later I got this job.
RUF: So you came to New York without having a job? You were just coming to look?
ANONYMOUS: I had only $1,000 left, so I have to go find some job.
RUF: And where did you stay? When you first came?
ANONYMOUS: When I just came? I had so many friends. 90% of Chinese students that32:00graduated from our school all found jobs in the metropolitan area.
RUF: From your school in Clarion? Oh wow!
ANONYMOUS: Yeah. I think whoever decided to come to New York, they got a joblater on. It was four years ago, almost five years ago.
RUF: So you stayed with friends, and what was that like? How many people wereliving together?
ANONYMOUS: Just two. Two girls were living together. They go to work during theday, and I get a paper, and look for a job at American libraries, and applied for the jobs, and stuff.
RUF: Did you only look in English-language newspapers, or did you look inChinese-language newspapers?
ANONYMOUS: No, I didn't. Because I would like to get a library job. So I didn'teven think -- I thought, within two months, if I couldn't get a job I may just 33:00take any job, maybe work in a restaurant for a while. I thought -- at that point. And then -- I was lucky, you've got to be lucky somewhere. Nobody's lucky in everything. But, then I got a job. I was living in Queens, and it was like three hours of commuting every day. I was working at the Brooklyn Heights branch, at that point. So it's relatively close, in Brooklyn. So eventually I thought I'd just move to Brooklyn.
RUF: What part of Queens were you living in?
RUF: In Elmhurst, yeah. Were there a lot of Chinese there?
ANONYMOUS: Yeah. I was looking for a house on the Chinese paper.
RUF: Did you find that much more easy to adapt yourself to, or by that time hadyou just perfectly adapted to American life that it -- Did it make a difference being in a Chinese community when you came to New York?
ANONYMOUS: I was surprised that there were so many Chinese in the United States!You would laugh at me, really. That was my first impression. I loved the Chinese 34:00food in here. Before I came to New York, I'd never really had good food over there. Yeah, it's was a help, but also it made me think about a lot of things. Like the people in Chinatown, a lot of them they are working like a dog, every day, all their lives, without enjoyment. I've been in the United States for ten years, I'm a citizen now, but the only other state I've ever been in is New Jersey. I really feel so sorry for them. They may have lots of money, but they don't spent it to make themselves -- they don't enjoy their lives. Maybe they enjoy other things, I believe, maybe they enjoy passing the money to their children, I guess. With Cantonese, I don't understand Cantonese, and that's 35:00another barrier here I have. And I still find, after I moved to Brooklyn, it's different.
RUF: Here being, in Brooklyn, or in New York in general?
ANONYMOUS: In Brooklyn. In Queens, I go to stores and buy stuff, besides myfriends, who would always speak Mandarin, I don't really have any Cantonese friends, really. But after I got to this branch, I think I do need to know some Cantonese, because some people really need help. Lots of people are from the countryside, they were farmers from the South, from Fu Jin, or Canton. I've never seen those people, one who is in China.
RUF: What were -- when you came to Queens, how long did you live in Queens?
ANONYMOUS: Half a year. Six months. Seven months. Not very much, because it was36:00too long, there was a whole winter that I was three hours on the way here.
RUF: What were your impressions of, for example, Chinatown in Manhattan, and theChinese community in Flushing or Elmhurst? Did you see, were you sensitive to the differences, or did it seem very much the same?
ANONYMOUS: In Flushing, I never lived there. But I did go shopping over there.People were more from Taiwan, and more spoke Mandarin or Shanghainese. More people looked more educated. In Chinatown, the food is great and too dirty. Flushing, too dirty, too. All the Chinatowns. That's my big -- I feel very sad about this. Of course, Chinatown is so …prosperous. It's always amazing how 37:00many Chinese people Chinatown is supporting, making their livings on this small Chinatown. And people, there are more Cantonese in Chinatown, in Manhattan. And more -- and you can always see a lot of young people, we call them "ABC's," American-Born Chinese. And it's very crowded. If I really have to go there to get books or to get food, I'll go there. But otherwise, I might not like to go there. Here, you can see mostly the Cantonese and people from Fu Jin Province, a lot of them are illegal immigrants. Very hardworking, and this Chinatown, on 8th Avenue, is growing so fast. As you can see, maybe the children, it's growing so fast. Three years ago, when I just moved over here, it was so small, like four 38:00blocks. Now it's maybe eight blocks. And the stores have doubled, and population has doubled. At that point, I didn't know there was a Chinatown on Eighth Ave., I was worrying about where I would get the food, when I decided to move to Brooklyn.
RUF: So you moved to Brooklyn just to be closer to work?
RUF: Totally unaware of the Chinese community here? How did you find an apartment?
ANONYMOUS: In the Chinese paper. That's how I found out there were so manyChinese people living in Brooklyn. And more and more, the real estate in Sunset Park area, there are a lot of people from Hong Kong too. Because '97 is coming soon, and they buy houses right away and then rent them out. Apparently there's getting to be more houses available, and more people getting houses, and more people moving in Brooklyn. You can see it growing, it's really --
RUF: And where do you live now?
ANONYMOUS: On Eighth Avenue and 67th Street, across the highway.
RUF: So you're more towards the Bay Ridge side. I see. Do you walk to work or39:00take the bus?
ANONYMOUS: If it's nice weather, it's good exercise, I would like to walk. Butto walk in winter, it's two subway stops, and the bus is easy, too. By car it's only five minutes. So it's really close.
RUF: What were your impressions of the Chinese community here in Sunset Park,when you first moved here?
ANONYMOUS: Generally speaking, there are so many different kinds of Chinese. Butone thing I really really hope is that the Chinese as a whole community can improve the education level. Of course, the Chinese that are working so hard know how to educate our children, how to make money, how to manage and run your business, but we don't really know how to get involved in political activities. This is the one thing -- it's the one thing there's a lack of, really. Maybe 40:00it's Confucius, the whole Confucius philosophy is deeply involved in each part of Chinese people's everyday life. So a lot of people don't want to speak up, a lot of people don't care about what to do. For example, a very simple thing: recycling. For me, this is a law and I have to do it. And if we want New York to be clean, as other cities, at least we have to do it for ourselves. But a lot of people, they don't care about those things. I understand, because they have to work for 12 hours, they have four children, they have so many things to worry about that they can't pay attention to this recycling. But you know, that's the thing I feel very very sad about, about the Chinese community in this country, not only in New York, but in every other part, I guess. This is not something you can improve overnight, over months. At least ten years. I think it take 41:00generations, even. The first generation is a large group. I guess the first thing you worry about is how to survive, surviving, and how to give your children more chances to get what you don't get in your own generation. That's really my first impression of the Chinese community of the United States.
RUF: How did you find the Chinese community here in Sunset Park, compared towhat you found in Manhattan, or in Flushing, for that matter. What were some of the differences between the two or the three?
ANONYMOUS: Here, more new immigrants. I was reading the Chinese paper, and Iforgot what the percentage is. At least 50 or 60 percent of the Chinese people now here are new immigrants, including myself, too. Educational level, in 42:00Flushing I think they're more educated, with professionals living there. And their children, a lot of them don't speak Chinese anymore. Some of them. In Manhattan, they're more settled over there. They even speak Cantonese, they're living their own ways, but they're more settled. Here, it's really brand new. As Americans, they're starting from scratch. Everything you have to get right from the very very beginning. That's a very big difference.
RUF: Do you go to Chinatown often, in Manhattan?
ANONYMOUS: Not really.
RUF: What about back to Queens, at all?
ANONYMOUS: Occasionally visiting friends, but I don't go shopping over there, inthat area. But I still -- while I go there I still have the same feeling.
RUF: Do you all your shopping here, along 8th Avenue?43:00
ANONYMOUS: Yes, it's cheaper. Everything is cheaper than Manhattan and Flushing.I can get fresh vegetables and everything here.
RUF: I wanted to ask you, at this point in time your whole family is here. Yoursister is here, in college, and your parents are both here as well. When did they come to the States?
ANONYMOUS: Three years ago. They were in Canada for two years. My sister and myparents were in Canada for a while.
RUF: Was that with your father's work, or how were they in Canada?
ANONYMOUS: Yeah. In Toronto.
RUF: Is there a large Chinese community there?
ANONYMOUS: Yes. Their Chinatown there, in Toronto, is the third largest NorthAmerica. San Francisco may be the first, and ours is second, and theirs is third. It's long, it's not like very short streets, like we have here in Manhattan. It's like two or three long, maybe a mile or two long, streets. 44:00
RUF: And they came three years ago, they moved down to the United States?
RUF: And where are they living now?
ANONYMOUS: They're in Brooklyn, now.
RUF: Do you live together, or are they close to you?
ANONYMOUS: No, we don't live together. I'm married.
RUF: Ah, you're married!
ANONYMOUS: So we're living in a different place. They're living closer to here.I'm living on Eighth Avenue.
RUF: And how to they find life here, adjusting to New York and Brooklyn?
ANONYMOUS: It's very difficult, I think. Everything for the people, I would say,if you move after age I used to say 40, but now I say 45 you will find a lot of things so difficult to adjust to, even though you were professors, you were doctors, like a lot of the Russian immigrants, and scientists. And after you get here things are different, so it takes a lot of energy. And, of course, for 45:00them, from the bottom of the heart, it's so hard to adjust to a lot of things.
RUF: Do your parents speak English?
ANONYMOUS: My father reads very well, but spoken English, for their age, they'reokay. My mother studies so hard, and she studied linguistics before, so she improved very fast. Very fast -- but it's still -- it's hard.
RUF: Are they working now?
ANONYMOUS: Yeah, they're working. And my parents, they were running a shoestore. But business is so slow, I'm always so worried about them. But from what I can do, I just wish I could get [unintelligible]. [laughter]
RUF: Don't we all! It's their store, they own the store?
ANONYMOUS: Yeah, in a partnership. This way they reduce the risk.46:00
RUF: With another Chinese?
ANONYMOUS: Yeah, with another Chinese. Beginning with another Korean.
RUF: It began with a Korean partner? Aahh. How did they meet their partner?
ANONYMOUS: In jobs. The first job, they're reading the paper to get a job, andfrom there they met each other, and if they seem trustworthy to one another, and then they started.
RUF: What did they do when they first came?
ANONYMOUS: My father was working in the shoe store -- [Interview interrupted.]
RUF: And your mother, what did she do when she first came?
ANONYMOUS: She was working as a housekeeper. I think that was a big, big, bigchange for her. A doctor's home. But this doctor, he wanted to study some 47:00Chinese. That's how she started working over there. Because in his community, there were a lot of Chinese people who goes to his clinic, so my mother taught him some Chinese and did some housework. Apparently they were very nice to her, not only because of her background, but there is some reasons there. But for her, she had never done those things before. She doesn't care about working, of course. My mother always said, "We can work very hard, and there's no problem." But just the psychological adjustment is a great difference.
RUF: Mm, yeah. And what about your sister? How does she find the United States?
ANONYMOUS: She's seven years younger than me, so she's so young and now she's soAmericanized. A lot of times I feel there are some differences with us. She's very -- sings American songs and goes to movies. And not always like us, 48:00worrying about so much, and tomorrow. You're working hard now, and tomorrow what comes will come. She has her American young people's attitude.
RUF: That's something she developed here?
ANONYMOUS: Yeah, of course. She's living on campus, so --
RUF: Is she at Clarion, also?
ANONYMOUS: Not Clarion, another place. Near Erie. She likes American food, or,like it or not, but she's getting used to it. With a lot of American friends. And, ah… that's her.
RUF: When did she come?
ANONYMOUS: She came with my parents.
RUF: But then started school here.
ANONYMOUS: Her spoken English is so well. Of course, for us, language is still aproblem. It's a problem, because I don't think for me, in all my life time, I can speak perfect English. It's almost impossible. I started too late. 49:00
RUF: When did you start learning English?
ANONYMOUS: My parents pushing us very hard, so from 13 years old, from school.But two or three years before I came to the United States very early in the morning my parents wanted us to listen to Voice of America first at like 6:30 every morning.
RUF: That was Voice of America, yeah. Let me ask you, if you don't mind, torelocate to the United States, particularly for your parents, not only for you to enroll in a school, but for your parents to relocate down here, to send your sister to school, it must have cost a lot of money. Was this savings that your parents had been able to save through the years? How did they manage it financially?
ANONYMOUS: My parents were both working, the two of them. I think it's just like50:00a regular life. For my sister, I think, before she started school she was working in a restaurant for a year. And now, for summer session, from the second day she came back and she started Chinese takeout in New Jersey, and she's off on Monday. And they pay her $1,800 a month cash.
RUF: Oh, in cash?
ANONYMOUS: In cash, yeah. That's the only way she can make up her expenses atschool. You know -- but that's a 14-hour, long day. I think --
RUF: How did she find that job?
ANONYMOUS: I think from the paper, because she speaks good English, and theChinese takeout always answers phones. That's where she looked for those jobs.
RUF: So is she living in New Jersey now, for the summer?
ANONYMOUS: Yeah, she comes back once a week and stays with my parents. And then51:00I think she's going to leave two or three days before school starts. That's a very hard life, and I know a lot of -- at home, when you have to finish -- me and my parents, if we could give her some help, we would. But now, the tuition starts from undergraduate is lots of money, she has to work very hard.
RUF: What is she studying?
ANONYMOUS: Accounting. I'm looking forward you can do my tax return, I will pay you!
RUF: Me too! Oh!
ANONYMOUS: But she's doing all right.
RUF: Let me ask you something, if you don't mind. Something else about your ownlife. How long have you been married?
ANONYMOUS: Almost going to be three years.
RUF: Are you married to a Chinese man?
ANONYMOUS: Yeah, I married a Chinese man.
RUF: How did you meet.
ANONYMOUS: Oh, we met in Clarion. We were students together. But he's not a librarian.
RUF: What does he do?
ANONYMOUS: He does the sales. He's working for an American company. And also52:00part-time doing real estate, but it's too slow.
RUF: Has he earned his license as a real estate broker, or does he work in sales?
ANONYMOUS: A sales person. He has a sales certificate, but not a broker. Theother job he's doing very well. They wanted to send him back to China to represent the company and stuff there. But I'm not sure what we're going to do about that, yet.
RUF: Have you been back to China since you left?
ANONYMOUS: No. I've been working all the time.
RUF: Would you like to go back?
ANONYMOUS: To visit, yes. To stay -- I think I've really gotten used to it here.Besides, I always feel I'm in two cultures. I love both cultures. But they're so… there's a lot of things -- it's something you can only feel -- it's nice, 53:00but it's sad, and sometimes I don't know where I am. And like, sometimes I… I haven't written a letter for a long time. My parents are here, and I haven't written a letter. Sometimes I forget Chinese characters, to write. To read, I won't forget it. But write, same pronunciation, different words. I don't want to lose it, but meanwhile I want to read the New York Times, because that's the only way you can improve your writing and your English. Otherwise I'll have bad spelling, and as a librarian, people will laugh at you. So it's hard.
RUF: Do you have any children?
RUF: Now, in terms of, ah -- in terms of holidays, you talk about being caughtbetween two cultures. Do you celebrate holidays that are American, or do you prefer to celebrate Chinese, or do you do both?
ANONYMOUS: Both. Do holidays as much as possible. I do both.54:00
RUF: What are some of the major holidays that you still celebrate, or thatpeople in the community in general celebrate here?
ANONYMOUS: Spring Festival, that's a major one. I don't have any feeling aboutthat anymore, even though with parents, just gather, eat, eat, eat. That's all the Chinese do! I don't know. That's one thing about lost in the culture.
RUF: Are there any special activities around the time of Ching Ling?
ANONYMOUS: Ching Ling? Not for me. I know my mother will sometimes do somethingfor my grandfather. But here, the temple, I don't know much about Buddhism. One thing is because my parents, my family background was modernized and educated, and also because of the background I was growing up, the Communists took over and that broke down everything else, and then I didn't know much about it. I 55:00know basics. And my mother went to one temple, and I think the owner of the temple, I have to say, "The owner of the temple," instead of the service man, or whatever. They care only about the money, but the services -- I thought, "What's the point?" With the money, we could send to grandma, and do something in China. We don't have to go there to buy their papers to burn. I didn't say so to my mother. It's so straightforward, but…
RUF: Is it a temple here, in Sunset Park?
ANONYMOUS: Yeah, there was one. It was on Eighth Avenue--
RUF: The [unintelligible] Temple?
ANONYMOUS: Huh? The Guying Temple, because it's close, I don't want to make toomany comments on those places. But the time, when we went, I felt depressed and I felt so sad, I was sad about something with myself, why I was going. So I 56:00don't believe those things.
RUF: Do you still send a lot of money back to your relatives in China, to yourgrandparents? Or do you have cousins, anyone to send it to?
ANONYMOUS: No, I don't think so. If I send some, it's just a present from SpringFestival or something like that. No, because you know, in China, there are a lot of great changes over there.
RUF: Have you had any visits from relatives?
ANONYMOUS: No. I think we're not ready yet for that.
RUF: I want to ask you a few questions about, again, your impressions of SunsetPark. Some of the concerns you see facing the Chinese here, as new immigrants coming in. You talked about a category you called new immigrants. What's the difference between a new immigrant and an old immigrant? How do you define a new immigrant? Is there a particular year after which people came?
ANONYMOUS: I don't know. Apparently 1980 is like the -- from the 1990 census I57:00think there was a 110% growth of Asian populations. From the 1980's. And the difference is that, of course the old immigrants are more settled and everything. But a lot of times I'm not very happy with the so-to-speak Chinese old immigrants, because they thought they were so advanced or so snobby, or whatever. But actually I think we're the same. The whole community doesn't work together. It's never going to change the Chinese community's reputation and everything else. It's not just because you are new, I'm old and you are new, and I have a better impression on people than you do. That's not true. That's really not true. I think the Chinese community in the United States, or say in New York, so many people should work together. That's what I believe. 58:00
RUF: Is the Chinese community here in Sunset Park, is it very fragmented, or isthere factions within the leadership? Within the civic leadership?
ANONYMOUS: Actually I'm not sure, because I'm not really involved in Cantonese,and the people from Fu Jia. The people from the boats who are working in the garment factories. I know they have a very hard life, I'm very sympathetic to those people. I feel kind of, what we can do, that's the immigrant life, sometimes you just accept it.
RUF: Have you noticed any changes in the way non-Chinese or non-Asians in thearea, out here in Sunset Park, have viewed or looked upon the Chinese since all the publicity about the Golden Venture or the house raids, things like that?
ANONYMOUS: I believe so, but I don't think I really could feel it in the air59:00around me. But I believe there must be. If I were a non-Chinese, I would feel something too. I understand this, but there's always double sides of things, you know. Of course, they should be sent back. Because otherwise it will encourage tons of others coming, but on the other hand, there's always another hand. So I don't know -- actually myself I'm not sure what my real opinion is on this Golden Venture boat. It's a sad story, that's for sure. Tragedy, that's for sure. But what's to be the ending of it, I don't know.
RUF: What do you think are some of the -- well, looking towards the future, whatdo you think are some of the -- well, let's talk more in terms of possible problems that may be facing the Chinese community here in Sunset Park, what are some of the problems that the Chinese will have to be dealing with over the next 60:00few, as you see them, things to be concerned about, or issues that they should address. Or that you would like to see addressed.
ANONYMOUS: Hopefully, the people constantly coming, hopefully they'll be moreorganized. The illegal immigrants will definitely bring society down, because most of the illegal immigrants are not very well educated in Chinese, and don't speak English. And also, because they're coming to take the salary -- they till take lower salary for the same job than other people. People are constantly saying this. But actually, generally I just feel that China, in China, could get better and better faster. And this way we'll keep people there, and people won't 61:00spend their fortune to have a life like that. That's the basic thing. I think nothing can be stopped by deciding to stop it. It's not going to be stopped. There's other things to stop problems, from the very basic -- China, as itself, the improvement. And the new building of economics, and everything. That's the basic thing that will stop people coming. I think that's the only very rational way to do that.
RUF: Have you noticed that, the new rise in the rate of immigration to the area,has this led to problems of crime in Sunset Park? Some of the other Chinese I've 62:00talked to say things along those lines. That crime is up and a lot of people are beginning to get worried, especially shop owners.
ANONYMOUS: I know there is something called "Protection Field," something,they're going around asking for money for protection. But for me, since I'm working in the library and my friends all have professional jobs, personally I was not being mugged or anything. Almost once, but not by -- Hispanic people.
RUF: Where did that happen?
ANONYMOUS: 53rd Street and 4th Ave. Last October. But that boy was only 14years-old looking. I couldn't imagine so young, boys starting doing this. And my father was mugged once by Hispanic people, too, so -- at least I was not mugged by--
RUF: How did you get away, what did you do?
ANONYMOUS: I was instinctively like this -- and then he was afraid. He was very63:00afraid. I guess maybe it was the first time or something like that.
RUF: Was your father injured when he was mugged?
ANONYMOUS: No, usually you're asked for money, give them the money, and that'susually it.
RUF: How did he feel?
ANONYMOUS: Of course, like a person being attacked would. And you feel, "Why amI staying in New York?" and sometimes you have the feelings, but after a while you think -- once it happens, you will be safe for five years, something like that.
RUF: Lightning doesn't strike twice kinda thing.
ANONYMOUS: And then you feel better.
RUF: Do you enjoy your job here?
ANONYMOUS: Uh, yeah. I think I enjoy working in the library, and I think I'velearned a lot, too. Especially in New York, I think it's a great cultural city, and I hated it so much when I first came, and now I love it so much I wouldn't 64:00like to leave. Not only because of Chinese food, but a lot of other activities. For example, last Saturday night, in Central Park the Pavarotis. Even though I didn't go, there were 400,000 people who went. I didn't go there, but there are Broadway shows and galleries.
RUF: What do you do in your leisure time? Do you go to shows, have you visited galleries?
ANONYMOUS: Yes. But shows rarely, because they're so expensive. On ouranniversary we went to a Broadway show, once. And we went to Rockefeller Center to see people skating over there. There's a certain atmosphere, cultural atmosphere, which you can't get anywhere else. Are you from New York?
RUF: I've lived here for ten years I grew up in what they call Upstate New York.My parents were born and raised here, so I knew New York pretty well as a child. And what else do you do in your spare time?
ANONYMOUS: Actually, what I liked to do before, I really don't do anymore.65:00Because I don't know, once I changed the environment, my whole life has been changed. Before I liked skating, in Beijing I was skating in [unintelligible], and [unintelligible], and we were boating and dancing, and I didn't do those things in New York. I was busy surviving, and surviving, and surviving. To settle more, settle more, settle more.
RUF: Do you feel regretful? About that?
ANONYMOUS: There's always trade-offs. You can't have everything. I wish I couldhave everything, but I know it isn't possible. But still, you grow up and life is different.
RUF: You were speaking just a moment ago about the incidents with the muggings.I wanted to ask you about the relationship between -- not just between the 66:00various groups of Chinese, be they Cantonese or Toisan or Fujinese, but Chinese as a whole and other ethnic groups here, be they Asians or Latinos, Middle Easterners, what are things like?
ANONYMOUS: I came last July, and in September there was a Chinese street fair on8th Avenue. I came here and there was meetings, and as you know, I gave you the notes from that meeting. And then I went for the library to give out library cards, registration for the library card, actually. And to do other things. And I thought of some very helpful things to do. And later on I heard, not because of this event, but just generally speaking there are some tensions between Chinese and Hispanic. And I know, these two groups of people, culturally they're so different. And I like the Latinos, they are so open and happy and singing, 67:00and this is part of the Chinese people, they're so quiet, and they keep everything to themselves, for ourselves. And there's cultural difference. And I can understand -- you know, on 8th Avenue, how many Spanish stores closed down? That's why there are so many Chinese stores opening there? How many houses have been bought by the Chinese people coming in, with cash, and then only want to rent to Chinese people. They raise the rent, or whatever. Maybe they don't understand rent control, or whatever. They may want the people to move out. Of course, I understand those things, but generally speaking, you know, I feel comfortable in this neighborhood. I feel people are -- I used to work in Sheepshead Bay branch, that's a Jewish neighborhood, and it was more safe, but people fight over things that people don't fight over here, and you think that 68:00maybe they would fight over. Like one dollar over dues, and things like that. It's different, the value of money, and value of different -- I don't know, it's kinda different. I think you can feel it, too. I think different groups have different values about property, about friendship, about love, and other things.
RUF: Speaking about houses, with the Chinese buying a lot of houses. Do yourenting a house?
ANONYMOUS: I'm renting a house, yeah. An apartment.
RUF: From a Chinese landlord?
ANONYMOUS: Yeah, because I got it from a Chinese paper?
RUF: How large is your place?
ANONYMOUS: Small, a one-bedroom apartment. They call it junior. In New York, Ican't afford -- a librarian can't afford a really large space.
RUF: How much rent do you pay for a one-bedroom?
ANONYMOUS: $550. It's okay. It's fine, because it's with two person working. Oneperson working, by myself, I can't afford it. I have to share with other people 69:00or living with my parents.
RUF: Where do your parents live?
ANONYMOUS: They live on 58th and 7th Avenue.
RUF: So they're very close to 8th Avenue?
ANONYMOUS: Yeah, for the shopping, the Chinese food.
RUF: Do you go out to eat often, to restaurants?
ANONYMOUS: No, I don't think so. Only on an anniversary, or if friends come, toshow them dim sum. Sometimes we take out, if it's too busy or too hot to cook. This way, I hope you don't mind, that's the only way you can save more money, if you want to buy a house, buy an apartment.
RUF: What about your parents, do they go out to eat at all?
ANONYMOUS: Very rarely. I think we all go very rarely.
RUF: Do you parents visit Manhattan Chinatown more often than you do?
ANONYMOUS: No, because we have 8th Avenue here, I guess.
RUF: So they really do stay in this community here?
ANONYMOUS: I have to say, we're really dependent on these 8th Avenue stores and70:00groceries. I just hope generally, we have been living in a cultural environment all my life, so I like those kinds of environments, but Chinese people, the group I was with before, or my family was with before, I couldn't find too many here. Maybe we're all very scattered in the States, that's one thing.
RUF: When -- I have two different questions I want to ask you, and I don't knowwhich one I'll ask first. Have your parents travelled at all in the United States?
ANONYMOUS: Not really. They always say "Later." Last year was my parents' 30thanniversary, so I thought we would buy them tickets to go somewhere, and they said, "Later, later, later." They keep saying, "Later." So we sent them gifts, that's all we did.
RUF: What kind of gift did you buy them?71:00
ANONYMOUS: I bought them a pair of watches, his and hers. Seiko, it's a nicewatch. I thought, it was 30 years.
RUF: When your parents moved down from Canada, how did they arranged theirvisas? [Interview interrupted.] Asking about your parents arranging their visas--
ANONYMOUS: Since I'm here, and my husband has a green card --
RUF: So it was very to bring, easy to arrange for? So you made the arrangementsyourself, the application?
ANONYMOUS: Yeah, it was nothing too special. Plus, they were there before June4, there was a special law in Canada, so they had their permanent residence in Canada, so --
RUF: Do people here talk much about June 4th?
ANONYMOUS: No, here when Chinese people come here, they usually just get thevideos, get the books and then leave. But lots of mothers coming in bring the 72:00children here. We don't talk about politics. The papers are talking about it a lot. And nobody will forget, and of course I'm from there and I have friends there, and I have friends living right on Tiananmen Square. So nobody could forget it, and nobody could forgive it, so -- we don't talk about it much.
RUF: Just closing up with a few last questions. Do what extent do members of theChinese community use the library here? Is there a lot of use or a lot of Chinese patrons?
ANONYMOUS: Uh, more and more, and we'll have Chinese flyers, too. I think it'salso to do with, last year, in the Fourth Street Fair, I was there and I spoke with people as much as I could, struggling -- they don't understand Mandarin, or 73:00just managed somehow to understand, and I made some Chinese flyers. Talking about the Brooklyn Public Library, we're being so underfunded, so there were no computers and stuff like this here. But church people on 8th Avenue were so helpful. I met them from the meeting we held a couple of weeks Page 37 before the street fair took place, and they said, "We'll use the Chinese software," so we made some flyers without the formal from the library print shop. I think there's certain promotions, and we'll have the binder and we have the bags to give out, I think there's a certain advertisement on that, too. And plus, a lot of kids are doing their homework here, and we have the RIF program here Reading Is Fundamental program here -- every Wednesday afternoon. So more and more kids come, more and more Chinese come.
RUF: Finally, in terms of social services, in Sunset Park, for members of the74:00Chinese Community, what is here and what needs to be brought here? What is still -- lacking?
ANONYMOUS: Uh, I think it's just the very beginning of this community, as asettlement of immigration. I think a lots of basic stuff -- I don't know, I feel very deeply, and I can't express, I think bilingual is the first thing, it's like a bridge for people to understand things. Bilingual teachers, bilingual doctors, bilingual everything, legal services. And also, I don't know how much the Chinese community is involved in this Community #7. The Chinese paper last week, they were saying that the Chinese community here didn't get any grant, 75:00which we got from the borough fund, not even one Chinese agency got the money from this special fund for "New American" grants, or whatever it's called. I don't know -- do they go to meetings, community board meetings, every time? Are there enough people going there, or contacting them more actively? Or stuff like that. I think this is very important. Firstly, you should let people know you better, and then to communicate with people, and they you can reach your goal. I believe this is the way. There should be more people working for this society, for this community.
RUF: Well, [redacted for privacy], thank you very much for your time.
ANONYMOUS: My pleasure. Hopefully it could help you, or some other people wholisten to this, or who knows, and as long as I'm in this branch I'm glad to do 76:00as much as I could and as much as I can. We do have some Chinese books, and some children's Chinese books, very little. Our foreign books are being ordered by Central Library, and then we'll have a Foreign Language Department. They called me up, and they went to Chinatown, you know the Don Fung Chu, have you ever been there? We went there and then we ordered like four of five thousand dollars of Chinese books earlier this year. It was a pleasure. I'm really very happy about that, because I have never ordered so many Chinese books.
RUF: Have they been received and processed already?
ANONYMOUS: Yeah, I believe so. Because we ordered right from the shelves, andthen they pack it and sent it UPS. Central Library will send us a proportion of it. There are 17 or 18 branches, we have 58 branches in Brooklyn, and 17 or 19 77:00branches have Chinese books now. So the Chinese big community is not only in Sunset Park, it's all over Brooklyn now.
RUF: Very good.
Oral History Interview with Anonymous
Born in 1964 to a land-owning family of the educated elite, the narrator's family fortune was reversed during the Chinese Cultural Revolution. At twenty-two, she immigrated to America to attend Clarion University in Pennsylvania. After graduation she moved to New York City and found a job as a librarian in Brooklyn. She later married a Chinese man and helped her parents and sister immigrate to New York City from Toronto, Canada. At the time of the interview, the narrator felt stuck between two cultures; both of which she loved.
In this interview, the narrator discusses Chinese assimilation to American culture by contrasting her own experiences with those of her younger sister and of her parents. She notes class and lifestyle differences among the different Chinese immigrants of New York City and delineates them by their home provinces, their education levels, their native language, and "old" versus "new" immigrants, while also considering "ABCs" or American-Born Chinese. She discusses ethnic tensions between Chinese American and Hispanic American neighbors in the Sunset Park neighborhood of Brooklyn. The narrator also states that she feels she has become culturally American. Interview conducted by Gregory Ruf.
Brooklyn Historical Society collaborated with the Chinatown History Museum (now the Museum of Chinese in America) in order to conduct a series of oral histories with residents of the Sunset Park neighborhood of Brooklyn. The Cantonese, Mandarin, and English language interviews focused on what was then a new presence of Chinese and Asian immigrants concentrated along Eighth Avenue. Among the topics that are explored in the interviews are tensions between different groups of Chinese immigrants, crime and safety in the neighborhood, Sunset Park's relationship to Manhattan's Chinatown, and how long-term residents of Sunset Park had adjusted to the area's "newcomers."
CitationAnonymous, Oral history interview conducted by Gregory Ruf, June 29, 1993, New Neighbors: Sunset Park's Chinese Community records, 1994.007.01; Brooklyn Historical Society.
- Chinese Americans
- Cultural assimilation
- Emigration and immigration
- Ethnic relations
- Hispanic Americans
- Social classes
- Beijing (China)
- Brooklyn (New York, N.Y.)
- Chinatown (Brooklyn, New York, N.Y.)
- Chinatown (New York, N.Y.)
- Hong Kong (China)
- Queens County (N.Y.)
- Sunset Park (New York, N.Y.)
Finding AidNew Neighbors: Sunset Park's Chinese Community records