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Chinese Heart of Texas
by Mel Brown

Chinese Heart of Texas: The San Antonio Community (1875-1975) is one hundred years of history and one hundred years of pride. This is the vibrant story of why and how the Chinese came to Texas a few years after the American Civil War.

Most importantly, Chinese Heart of Texas is about what enabled the Chinese to stay at a time when they were being driven out of many other places. No ethnic group faced the unique struggles and prejudices which confronted them as they chose to become Americans. And no other group of people met those challenges quite so well and with as much success as did the sojourners from ancient China.

San Antonio became a good home when its own uniqueness provided acceptance and opportunity. The detailed telling of this tale is here along with many previously unpublished photographs.

Large stories and small ones combine to make a colorful mosaic of Chinese trials and triumphs -- from being unwanted aliens to ordinary citizens. Some became respected physicians or prosperous businessmen while others became decorated soldiers, sailors and airmen.

While the Chinese were becoming Americans and Texans in every sense, they produced a century of history rich with texture, important in scope and remarkable by example.

This new book consists of eight chapters which chronologically explore the facts, fiction, myths, legends, personalities and places that make up the first century of the Chinese experience in Texas. San Antonio's own rich history and culture made it a unique home for these colorful Asian people who had left China seeking a better world and more opportunity than that in their own ancient society.

This diaspora began literally a millennia ago, then made it to America in the middle of the 19th century. Chinese Heart of Texas details the various aspects of that movement from its beginnings in California to its curious ups and downs in the post Civil War South.

The early arrivals were the men from Canton who were hired to build America's expanding railroad industry as they completed the two transcontinental lines which linked the Atlantic and Pacific oceans. Once the work was completed, most of those laborers returned to China but many did not, and it is their story which is told here.

Also covered is the unfortunate reality of the Chinese Exclusion Laws which prohibited immigration. How the Chinese overcame such prejudice and went on to create successful and prosperous communities in Texas is detailed. Perhaps most importantly, it is about the ABCs or American Born Chinese, as it was they who brought the history full circle in making those communities a reality.

There are personal stories of back breaking labor across the southwestern deserts, of rescue from the Mexican Revolution by a large group of Chinese there (thanks to Gen. "Black Jack" Pershing), and also of growing up in family grocery stores, of serving in WWII and of becoming Americans along the way. Readers will learn of the many triumphs and some tragedies of these very solid citizens, of the many contributions they've made to their adopted homeland and of how they are just people after all.

Nearly a hundred photos enhance the text in ways only images can do. The book is semi-scholarly in its thoroughness while still being entertaining and informative. Chinese Heart of Texas brings this great history to the reading public at a time when China itself begins to realize the destiny it has always dreamed of for its people. Also told is that story of the modern South coming to terms with its own destiny of making a good home for a rainbow of ethnicities as we all struggle to be better people and better Americans.

"And in a small way," says Mel Brown, "Chinese Heart of Texas is also partly my story since, although I'm about a fifteenth-generation Southerner, I'm also Chinese American by way of thirty years of marriage."

Please contact Mel Brown at melbjr@earthlink.net to order this fascinating book
or visit this AsianAmerican book site: CLICK HERE


Mel Brown is a fifth generation Texan and the first person in his family to graduate from college (BA, 1969, University of Texas - Austin). He is a self-trained, fine art painter of landscapes and aviation subjects and author of three books. Mel's wife of three decades, Lorraine, is Chinese American, and they are the parents of three children.

CHINESE HEART OF TEXAS was a labor of love that in some ways wrote itself due to the author's very curious connections with the Chinese in Texas, discovered only after the book was begun.

Since attending a family reunion in Oxford, Mississippi, his paternal grandfather's birthplace, in July, 1964, Mel has also had a personal bond with the deep South that has left its mark on his persona.


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Read two more fascinating stories about Chinese-American history here on our pages!

Pilgrimage to China

Growing up Chinese in the Mississippi Delta

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