In the first fifty years after American independence, voluntary immigrants to the United States came almost exclusively from Europe. It was not until the mid-nineteenth century, when the United States’ trading ports had diversified worldwide, that immigration expanded to other continents. Immigration offered many opportunities for both the Chinese immigrants and American businessmen. However in the decades that followed, attitudes toward immigration shifted, resulting in a constantly changing status for Chinese immigrants nationwide. From the middle of the nineteenth century when the Chinese first began immigration, both foreign and domestic factors affected the process of immigration and treatment of the Chinese people in the United States. In the U.S., discrimination, exclusion laws, and the establishment of Chinatowns shaped the Chinese immigration experience. At the same time, foreign factors including revolution in China, World War II, and Cold War animosities also influenced Chinese immigrants living far from their original homeland.
When Chinese immigrants first arrived in the United States their ships docked on the west coast in San Francisco and Seattle, a region known for its lush landscapes and variety of weather conditions. David Guterson, a contemporary American author, captures these landscapes and storms in his descriptive novels about life in this area of the country. The aspects of nature that Guterson illustrates are a foil to another part of creation, mankind. Guterson allows the natural environmental elements of life to foil human corruption in his novels Snow Falling on Cedars, East of the Mountains, and Our Lady of the Forest. His depictions of the cedar forests north of the Puget Sound, the apple orchards between the cascades and the Columbia River, and the lodging communities in the forests of Washington, create backdrops for the corruption and mystery of humankind.
Major Works Consulted:
Daniels, Roger. Asian America: Chinese and Japanese in the United States since 1850. Seattle:
U of Washington P, 1988.
Guterson, David. Our Lady of the Forest. New York: Vintage, 2003.
Guterson, David. East of the Mountains. New York: Vintage, 1998.
---. Snow Falling on Cedars. New York: Vintage, 1995.
Kwong, Peter. Chinese Americans: The Immigrant Experience. Hong Kong: Hugh Lauter,