I really enjoyed reading The Arrival, because it put into pictures what immigration can be like in a country. One aspect of this piece that I connected with was the main character’s entrance into the state. The “exams” that the immigrant went through and the line he had to stand in was very reminiscent of Ellis island to me. On Ellis island they had to complete similar “medical exams” in order to be deemed “fit” to enter a country.
Another part of the book that I liked was when the main character met a woman on a transportation ship. Although no words were spoken, I was able to follow her entrance into this country as a refugee. Getting stuck in a labor camp, but being able to flee for refugee status is something that many immigrants yearn to do. Obtaining refugee status can be a difficult process, particularly for immigrants that are already in a country illegally. I like how this book showed the different kinds of immigrants that there are. Through the main character we are able to understand that even though all these immigrants had different stories, they are able to connect in similar ways over the hardships of entering a new society. Immigrants share a common bond, because they understand the struggle of entering and adapting to a new community.
This book is unique because it tells the story of immigration in a way that most people can understand. Even within the novel, the main character initially communicates through pictures. Pictures are universal and through pictures, people from around the world can share stories and feel empathy for one another.
While I have only read the first half of the H.T. Tsiang’s And China Has Hands (1937), I am already surprised by how much the novel seems to be ahead of its time. Namely, it reminds me of “Literature of New Arrival,” the genre that Bharati Mukherjee considers to be the current trend in immigrant writing. One trait of this genre, according to Mukherjee, is that its authors no longer work to ingratiate themselves with their American readership by presenting themselves in sympathetic terms; rather, they challenge Americans to work to understand them on their own terms. In brief, Literature of New Arrival “bites back” (Bharati 687).
Wong Wan-Lee is not a charmer of the contemporary American reader. Repeatedly referring to Americans as “savages,” he clearly feels antagonism toward his new community. Furthermore, while Exclusion-era Asian American works tended to paint appealing images of the contemporary “Old-World” homeland that would draw in American readers, Wong Wan-Lee makes no effort to romanticize his contemporary China (Miller 203-204). On the contrary, he reveals very little about the current state of the land from which he emigrated, except for that China exiled him. Rather, he seems to seek refuge in remembering the glory days of past Chinese empires and in his boasts of royal lineage. These memories and boasts, however, rather than capturing readers’ imagination and eliciting their empathy, arguably come across as rants that serve only to mock the protagonist as jaded and out-of-touch with the times. Wan-Lee also might unsettle American readers by challenging the stereotype of Chinese as a collectivist people: he is remarkably self-interested. When celebrating the Chinese New Year in Chinatown, for instance, he attempts to cheat another immigrant at the “finger game” (80-81). Even his Chinese names, Wan-Lee and I Pen, evoke curiously capitalist notions of seeming personal fortune and investment (11).