"Bitter Strength: A History of the Chinese in the United States"

Decent Essays
Barth, Gunter Paul in his book "Bitter Strength: A History of the Chinese in the United States, 1850-1870" depicts the life of Chinese immigrants during the periods of 1850-1870. Barth portrays the experience that the Chinese went through at the Pearl River delta in China to get to the United States and there arrival here in California. Beginning in the mid-19th century, Chinese immigration to America was influenced by both the "pull" of California's Gold Rush and the""push" created by China's impoverished conditions. Years of drought, floods, disease, and famine ravaged China, a country already burdened with over-population and internal instability. European and American exploits into the region further exacerbated China's economic,…show more content…
Regimented labor guaranteed the merchant-creditors a constant return on their investment in the indentured emigrants. The sojourners' domiant concern in their new environment was survival, not liberty. "Bitter strength," the literal translation of the Chinese term "k'uli" for these laborers, suggests the dimensions of the sojourners' experience." (Barth 3) Barth point of view is very broad, which I think is very good for a book like this. Barth writes very well and is an easy reading. He points out his entire references well and shows great knowledge of what he writes about in his book. Yet, Barth's concept of America is all wrong. Barth interprets history according to an ideological outline and America must fit in some idealized political framework. As a result, his view of "America" and "American culture" represents the Chinese as victims. ."..the concentration of human misery also stimulated humanitarian attempts to alleviate the conditions by bringing the Chinese into the realm of American cultures." (Barth 191) The Chinese were not victims; He sees that the hatred for the Chinese was on the sojourners' who could not adapt to the American culture by giving up their culture, not for racist grounds. Anti-Semitism is a result of cultural prejudice not for racist reasons. I believe that the Jews were victimized for cultural reasons; because of this the author assumes that the
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