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The Coaching Book

By Clarence Leong For decades under the Chinese Exclusion Act (1882-1943), Chinese immigrants could only come to the United States if they could show...

By Clarence Leong

For decades under the Chinese Exclusion Act (1882-1943), Chinese immigrants could only come to the United States if they could show that they were children of American citizens or that they’d been born in the United States and returned to China as children. Many came as “paper sons” or “paper daughters”—using documents provided by previous Chinese immigrants to pose as their children. They were subject to intense questioning that could last for days by inspectors at the immigration stations at ports. Their answers would be checked against what their alleged relatives said, and a wrong reply could mean deportation. So even those coming under their true identities used these “coaching books” to help them prepare for the crucial interviews. This book belonged to Pang Ngip Chin, a paper son who used the false identity of Bok Ying Chin’s son. It appears to be a published booklet of standard questions in which people would write in their own answers. Some of the questions shown on the page include: “Does your mother have ‘big feet’ or bound feet?” “Where is your father now?”