Bradley Winterton reviews Estelle Lau’s Paper Families in the Taipei Times. Lau’s book is about how the Chinese Exclusion Act of 1882 affected Chinese American communities and initiated the development of restrictive U.S. immigration policies and practices. In order to get around the law, which allowed immigrant already in the U.S. to bring over family members, Chinese formed "paper families" or false kinships with elaborate false genealogies. Winterton writes, "It’s the author’s balance and lack of special pleading that makes Paper
Families a sane and therefore agreeable book. There’s even, surely, a
wry joke concealed in her title. Mao Zedong (毛澤東) may have considered
Western imperialists to be ‘paper tigers,’ but many American-Chinese
were actually themselves members of ‘paper families.’ Perhaps Mao
himself knew this. On balance it seems not unlikely."