“Every Chinese immigrant has a wound in their heart”
December 20, 2021 9:23 PM   Subscribe

Fascinating three part story on local San Francisco website Mission Local by Yujie Zhao about elderly immigrants from China that she met in a food pantry line. Part 1: For survivors of Mao’s Great Leap Forward (and resultant famines that killed millions), the pandemic has been a cakewalk
Part 2: As younger Asians earn degrees, elders consider lost opportunities - while some missed out on education in China due to Mao’s policies, or did not have time for ESL classes due to work, some women never learned to read Chinese.
Part 3: 'They said America was heaven, but now I regret coming'
posted by larrybob (10 comments total) 39 users marked this as a favorite
I live in San Francisco. It's fascinating to walk through Chinatown, especially Stockton street where many of the food markets are located, and observe the different ways people communicate. There are a lot of older people walking around just to get out among people, or to purchase a small amont of food per day.

Yujie Zhao's articles are excellent. She humanizes the isolated older Chinese.
posted by blob at 9:37 PM on December 20, 2021 [3 favorites]

So many white USians, the majority of whom ignore history (at their peril), are completely at a loss as to how to cope with the pandemic.

It's enlightening to hear from a community that has survived far worse, and to have an open acknowledgement that the US is far from the promised land of opportunity. I hope some people who could benefit from a broader perspective will read these pieces.
posted by Sheydem-tants at 6:12 AM on December 21, 2021 [1 favorite]

You can tell that each article is almost a direct response to the last one. I am guessing since she returns to the same area for each interview, the people who read the previous article are enthusiastic to offer their contrasting perspective.

"The pandemic doesn't worry me, I lived through much worse in China!"
"Yeah, but it isn't a cakewalk living here, either. China has come a long way. The US is so expensive!"
"Ok, but when I was a kid in China, there were no opportunities for me. My kids are doing much better!"

posted by domo at 6:22 AM on December 21, 2021 [1 favorite]

while some missed out on education in China due to Mao’s policies

I have heard that the generation of young people who could not become, say, doctors, because their education was interrupted by being sent to do farm work or the like in the Cultural Revolution, bitterly coined a term for their cohort that translates to "half-cooked rice".
posted by thelonius at 6:45 AM on December 21, 2021 [2 favorites]

My mom is a Chinese immigrant and before the pandemic she had expressed some desire to return to China (mostly because she thinks old age will somehow be easier there than here in the states), but I don't think she's ever expressed outright regret to me, even if she has complained about how difficult her life here in the states was... Something we'll chat about next time I see her, I guess.
posted by and they trembled before her fury at 6:57 AM on December 21, 2021 [8 favorites]

As I've mentioned before, Chinatown here has a very high vaccination rate despite the obvious logistical barriers. I've often wondered how the people who fled Mao felt about living stuck with a bunch of moronic Americans during this time.
posted by praemunire at 9:11 AM on December 21, 2021 [3 favorites]

How awful that the American dream has been reduced to "well, my American-born children have a better life than me but we might have all been better off if we stayed in China but it's too late to go back now". They left China at around its lowest point, only to experience the United States' descent.
posted by meowzilla at 12:30 PM on December 21, 2021 [4 favorites]

I still don't recall the title of that strange satirical novel about the time of The Great Leap Forward.
posted by ovvl at 3:59 PM on December 23, 2021

Ovvl, maybe it is covered in the book Out of the Crucible: Literary Works about the Rusticated Youth which I ran across when editing on the Wikipedia page on novelist Shi Tiesheng
posted by larrybob at 9:57 AM on December 26, 2021 [1 favorite]

Thank you larrybob, I've seen the film version of 'Life on a String' which is quite good.

After going back through things again, The Great Leap Forward novel that I'm thinking of looks like 'Four Books' by Yan Lianke.
posted by ovvl at 4:28 PM on December 27, 2021 [1 favorite]

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