Poems of Chinese Exclusion | Mechanics' Institute

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Poems of Chinese Exclusion
with writer and poet Jeffrey Thomas Leong

Monday, April 29, 2024 - 12:00 pm to 1:15 pm

Jeffrey Thomas Leong will be reading from his books Wild Geese Sorrow: The Chinese Wall Inscriptions at Angel Island and Writ. He will present new translations of poems written by Chinese immigrant detainees one hundred years ago that tell of their incarceration experience: from the shock of arrival, through lengthy stays of up to two years, humiliating medical exams, political outrage, and for some, deportation. These poems show the dark underbelly of American immigration policy where more often than not, immigrants of color are selected for discriminatory treatment and outright exclusion such as in the Chinese Exclusion Act of 1882. And he will also read from his original poetry inspired by the wall poems.

These readings will end with a Q&A with the audience and a book signing. Copies of Jeffrey Thomas Leong's books will be available for sale.

This special session of Mechanics' Institute's Monday Noontime History Series is presented in partnership with the Center for the Art of Translation and marks the intersection of National Poetry Month (April) and AAPI Heritage Month (May). Read this interview with Jeffrey Thomas Leong on their blog!

About the Monday Noontime History Series

Mechanics' Institute, a historical institution in the heart of downtown San Francisco, proudly hosts its noontime history series on select Mondays, offering a fascinating journey through various historical topics that resonate both locally and internationally. This series is a treasure trove for history enthusiasts, featuring an array of engaging subjects that bring the past to life. Past presentations include"The Personal is Political" with Isidra Mencos, "History from the 1970s" with Tony Bucher, and "A Short History of Deception" with Myles Dungan. Through this diverse and enriching series, Mechanics' Institute continues to foster a deeper understanding and appreciation of history, bridging the past into the present for its audience.

About the Presenter

Jeffrey Thomas Leong is a poet and writer, born in Southern California and raised in the San Francisco Bay Area. For over two decades, he worked as a public health administrator and attorney for the City of San Francisco. While earning his MFA in Writing at the Vermont College of Fine Arts, he began to translate anew the Chinese wall poems found at the Angel Island Immigration Station. These translations became Wild Geese Sorrow: The Chinese Wall Inscriptions at Angel Island published by Calypso Editions in 2018. His most recent book Writ, consisting of original poems also about the Angel Island detainee experience, was published by Eastwind Books in 2019. He is currently at work on a coming-of-age political memoir set in the 1960s, including the founding of Asian American Studies at UC Berkeley.

Cancellation Policy

We reserve the right to cancel at any time and issue a full refund. If you are unable to attend this series, please email [email protected] by Friday, April 26, 2024, to receive a full refund less any non-refundable ticketing fees which may be applicable. All fees must be paid at the time of registration. After Friday, April 26, 2024 no refunds will be issued.

Questions? Please contact [email protected].


Members Free
Non-Members $10
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4th Floor Meeting Room
Nico Chen - 415-393-0103
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