The Ah Quin Diary: Shedding Light on the Dark Ages of the Chinese Exclusion Era


ACLS Fellowship Program


Literature and Writing Studies


The Ah Quin Diary is the earliest significant writing in English by a Chinese immigrant to the United States. Written from 1877-1902 and extant in 11 volumes, this rare primary document touches on nearly all of the landmark narratives of the Chinese experience in nineteenth-century America (e.g., cook, railroad, laundry, restaurant, bachelor society, etc.). This new, interpretive monograph serves as a companion volume to the scholarly edition (also by this author) and provides extensive analysis to help make sense of the seemingly mundane activities that make-up the diary. What was it like to be a Chinese cook in San Francisco during the age of Denis Kearney? How did Ah Quin negotiate his desire to work in America against “The Chinese Must Go!” hysteria? The Diary addresses these questions in its own way and helps to fill a gap in the labor and immigration history. In short, this monograph interprets the text of Ah Quin’s life to provide insight on the “dark ages” of the Chinese Exclusion Era.