Author and faculty member Erika Lee signed books and answered questions for the crowd of students and fans gathered at the Coffman Union bookstore Wednesday.
Lee, a history professor and specialist in Asian American immigration and legal history, spoke about her new book, “At America’s Gates: Chinese Immigration and American Exclusion, 1882-1943.”
The book examines the motives, difficulties, and politics of the Chinese immigration to the United States. Lee illustrates these themes further by including her family’s personal narratives.
While writing the book, Lee said she considered naming individual immigrants in an effort to give the readers a sense of validity, yet she said she felt an overwhelming sense of responsibility to protect the identities of the people she wrote about. Many of the names in the published work are legitimate. However, she changed the names of those who would have been put in danger from such identification.
She said it is extremely important to understand the part of American and Chinese history that has often been deemed “the dark side” of immigration.
After Lee gave a brief synopsis and passionate speech about her book, she welcomed questions from the audience.
“It is part of our education to learn about the issues of the world and especially of our own back yard,” Lee said. “After all, ordinary people make extraordinary history.”