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The Chinatown Trunk Mystery: Murder, Miscegenation, and Other Dangerous Encounters in Turn-of-the-Century New York City Paperback – Mar 4 2007


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Product Details

  • Paperback: 320 pages
  • Publisher: Princeton University Press; 1 edition (March 4 2007)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0691130485
  • ISBN-13: 978-0691130484
  • Product Dimensions: 1.9 x 15.4 x 23 cm
  • Shipping Weight: 363 g
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: #1,033,403 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)


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Amazon.com: 4 reviews
6 of 6 people found the following review helpful
Wonderful Aug. 2 2007
By Ian Gordon - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Hardcover
Lui has written a wonderful book that uses a murder in New York to examine the complexity of race and gender in New York at the turn of the nineteenth century. Her research is first rate and the narrative she shapes is enthralling. One highlight of the book is the discussion of the ways that the Chinese community mobilized to defend itself from the attacks on Chinese, and Asians in general, that followed the discovery of the body. Her narrative is crisp and her analysis sharp.
Supurb March 8 2013
By Juniper - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
Read it for fun. Loved it! Not to academic to make a fun read. People who are interested in Chinatown should read it.
Scholarly study Dec 15 2012
By J Posedel - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Paperback
This is a fascinating scholarly study of the life of Chinese immigrants living in New York City in the early 1900s. However, it falls short in reporting the circumstances surrounding the "trunk mystery" death. The sparse details of the murder threaded thoughout the book left me wanting to know more. The book was published in 2005. Since then, extensive on-line newspaper accounts have become available detailing the murder investigation. Read the book for its sociological insights. Don't read it expecting a thrilling murder tale.
11 of 27 people found the following review helpful
Less Than Compelling Oct. 7 2008
By Grey Wolffe - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Paperback
Maybe if the book had a different title or was more forthright of the contents, I would have given it four stars. But as it stands, the book is only one third about the "Mystery" and even much of that is redundant. What the book is really about is a diatribe against the way the Chinese were treated under the 'Exclusionary Act'.

Lui must have spent an enormous amount of research time going through old records and newspapers because her data is first rate. What it isn't is about the murder and the murderer. Why? Because there is little to know beyond who they were and their relationship. You can only say the same thing so many ways and so many times and then it gets dull and repetitive (uh, redundantly redundant).

The body of Elsie Sigel is found in a trunk in New York's Chinatown. The room belongs to Leon Ling, and a massive manhunt begins. He is never found, but love letters from Elsie to Leon are found. Why was she killed, don't know; who killed her, maybe Leon.

We are then subjected to a plethora of data about interracial (asian and white mostly) marriage and mixed race children in New York at the turn of the twentieth century. Down to street and apartment addresses, baptismal and marriage date (even the names of the witnesses and godparents). Very boring and nothing to do with the murder. OK, I believe you, there weren't many single Chinese woman, so unless the bride came from China with her husband, the single men married white woman. OK, I get it.

Not recommended for anyone who is looking for a mystery story, only for those looking for a polemic as to how Asians were treated scandalously in turn of the century America.

Zeb Kantrowitz


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