Humanities Decanted: Daughter of the Dragon

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Yunte Huang

October 24, 2023 @ 4:00 pm - 5:30 pm

McCune Conference Room, 6020 HSSB

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Join us for a dialogue between Yunte Huang (English) and Constance Penley (Film and Media Studies) about Huang’s new book, Daughter of the Dragon: Anna May Wong’s Rendezvous with American History. Refreshments will be served.

Daughter of the Dragon is a trenchant reclamation of the Chinese American movie star, whose battles against cinematic exploitation and endemic racism are set against the currents of twentieth-century history. Born into the steam and starch of a Chinese laundry, Anna May Wong (1905–1961) emerged from turn-of-the-century Los Angeles to become Old Hollywood’s most famous Chinese American actress, a screen siren who captivated global audiences and signed her publicity photos—with a touch of defiance—“Orientally yours.” Now, more than a century after her birth, Yunte Huang narrates Wong’s tragic life story, retracing her journey from Chinatown to silent-era Hollywood, and from Weimar Berlin to decadent, prewar Shanghai, and capturing American television in its infancy. As Huang shows, Wong’s rendezvous with history features a remarkable parade of characters, including a smitten Walter Benjamin and (an equally smitten) Marlene Dietrich. Challenging the parodically racist perceptions of Wong as a “Dragon Lady,” “Madame Butterfly,” or “China Doll,” Huang’s biography becomes a truly resonant work of history that reflects the raging anti-Chinese xenophobia, unabashed sexism, and ageism toward women that defined both Hollywood and America in Wong’s all-too-brief fifty-six years on earth.

Yunte Huang is Distinguished Professor of English at UC Santa Barbara and is the author of Chinese Whispers: Toward a Transpacific Poetics (2022), Transpacific Imaginations: History, Literature, Counterpoetics (2008), CRIBS (2005), Transpacific Displacement: Ethnography, Translation, and Intertextual Travel in Twentieth-Century American Literature (2002), and Shi: A Radical Reading of Chinese Poetry (1997), and the translator into Chinese of Ezra Pound’s The Pisan Cantos. His book, Charlie Chan: The Untold Story of the Honorable Detective and His Rendezvous with American History (Norton, 2010), won the Edgar Award and was the finalist for the National Book Critics Circle Award, as well as being named a New York Times Notable Book and one of the Best Books of the Year by the San Francisco Chronicle, Village Voice, Amazon, and Kirkus Reviews. A Guggenheim Fellow in 2014-15, he has also published articles in the New York Times, Chicago Tribune, Daily Beast, and others. His most recent book is Inseparable: The Original Siamese Twins and Their Rendezvous with American History (2018).

Sponsored by the IHC’s Harry Girvetz Memorial Endowment


October 24, 2023
4:00 pm - 5:30 pm
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(805) 893-3907
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