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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Winner of the 2005 History Award, The Association for Asian American Studies
"Lui has created a solid historical narrative through her combined use of empirical data and Chinese-language sources. . . . [Her] work deserves to be recognized as an important contribution to American history."--Krystyn Moon, American Historical Review
"This is an outstandingly well researched and elegantly executed book, rich in detail, theoretical insight, and contemporary illustration drawn from the archives, and at times great fun. . . . [I]t sets a new high standard for writing about the Asian American experience."--Gregor Benton, Ethnic and Racial Studies
"[A] magnificent social history. . . . [T]he book's graceful style, along with its vivid, engaging narratives and insightful analyses, is certain to be appreciated and enjoyed beyond the scholarly community."--Renqiu Yu, Journal of American History
"Mary Ting Yi Lui's book, The Chinatown Trunk Mystery, is the perfect blend of a thrilling mystery bestseller and a detailed cultural history."--Shilpa Davé, Journal of Asian American Studies
"Lui, in this provocative and compelling study, demonstrates how America's racial and gender formations were mapped onto the dynamic and urban landscape of New York's Chinatown. This book is highly recommended."--Karen J. Leong, The Historian
From the Back Cover
"This is a fantastic book, overflowing with groundbreaking empirical research and rich with historical detail. The author has gathered an enormous range of newspaper and archival material, as well as prints and illustrations, and her detective work is amazing in its depth. She is particularly strong in detailing the historical fascination and obsessions with interracial sexual relationships, using the murder case of Elsie Sigel to narrate white American conceptions of Chinatown and Chinese men as a threat to white women."--Henry Yu, University of California, Los Angeles
"Mary Ting Yi Lui creatively employs a forgotten but important crime as a narrative vehicle to show that New York's Chinatown was not a neighborhood of racial exclusion and ethnic isolation. Rather, the author convincingly argues that Chinatown's borders were not fixed or impenetrable as suggested by past journalist and scholarly studies. She offers a nuanced and accurate interpretation of the Chinese-American experience, challenging one of the most enduring racial stereotypes in American historical literature."--Timothy J. Gilfoyle, Loyola University
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews on Amazon.com (beta)
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.
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